Stephen Kenny expects to lose his fight to have captain Séamus Coleman available for next week’s World Cup qualifier away to Azerbaijan.
Kenny will today name his squad for the double game of the qualifier in Baku on Saturday and a home game against Qatar the following Tuesday.
His options have increased since last month’s international camp, which earned just two points from three qualifying games and ended Irish play-off hopes for the World Cup when Jason Knight (Derby County), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United) , Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Mark Travers (Bournemouth) and Shane Long (Southampton), who all missed the triple header, are fit again.
Midfield pair Alan Browne and Jayson Molumby miss the Baku trip through suspension, while Dara O’Shea is out due to injury.
Coleman has missed his club’s last three games with a hamstring injury and last week manager Rafa Benitez said he was “almost 100 percent certain” that Coleman would not return in time for the international match.
Coleman desperately wants to be involved in Baku, especially since defender O’Shea is absent and Kenny has little cover.
But the Irish coach, aware that James McClean’s insistence on showing up for international appearances against his club’s wishes in March effectively cost McClean his career at Stoke City, will not risk a break with the Toffees and is hoping Benitez will gives the captain a chance to prove his fitness.
Kenny, who was in Wigan Tuesday night to see McClean, was encouraged to see Knight for Derby County last night, while O’Dowda is an option now for the first time in 11 months after the injury.
He also hopes Matt Doherty can get playing time for Spurs in today’s European game against Slovenian side Mura after the Dubliner failed to even come on the bench for Tottenham last weekend.
Earlier this week, Kenny’s assistant Keith Andrews said the fitness of players who have fallen out of favor at the club level, like Jeff Hendrick, “who are uncooked who haven’t kicked a ball for their clubs” is an issue.