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McCarthy upbeat on Stevens fit...
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McCarthy upbeat on Stevens fitness as McClean eyes up Slovakia return

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy's played down fears over the fitness of Enda Stevens ahead of next month's Euro 2020 playoff with Slovakia.

The Sheffield United full-back was taken off with a calf injury after scoring a wondergoal in their 1-1 draw with Brighton.

McCarthy says the substitution was more precautionary than anything, and his United manager Chris Wilder hopes to have Stevens back by Saturday week.

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Ireland boss says Stevens' strike at Bramall Lane improves his goalscoring options for the March 26 game in Bratislava, "I’ve seen it described as a screamer on one report and that’s exactly what it was.

"Enda has been on top form for Sheffield United and for Ireland all season and it’s nice to see him amongst the goals now as well.

"We’ll take goals from anywhere in Bratislava at the end of March so the more Irish players scoring right now, the better as far as I’m concerned."

James McClean is another hopeful of making that trip to the Slovakian capital.

His participation in the Euro playoff had been placed in serious jeopardy after he sustained a medial knee ligament injury in Stoke's Championship defeat to Preston. McClean was ruled out for "several weeks" by his club.

The 30-year old winger is in Dubai for specialist rehab work, and while there he spoke with the Dubai Reel podcast.

McClean says he was told he'd be out for six weeks, but he hopes to return in three or four.

Still wearing a knee brace, McClean told the hosts, "It’s a torn MCL and a torn meniscus.

"They said it was a long-standing tear, so I’ve obviously had it a long time but it wasn’t giving me any trouble.

"They said it would take six weeks, so I’m hoping it’s three or four. I’ve always been a good healer and I’m hoping it’s the case this time around."

While goals have been hard to come-by during his tenure, McCarthy's been buoyed by the returns to form of both Shane Long and Scott Hogan.

Long scored the opener in Southampton's 2-0 win over Aston Villa, while Hogan has scored three goals in as many games for Birmingham City since his loan move from Villa.

"Shane has played himself right back into the reckoning at Southampton," McCarthy said, "Not because of his two goals in recent weeks but because he is playing week in and week out and showing the benefits of that.

"Scott has really got himself back into the picture for Slovakia with his goals for Birmingham and his finish on Saturday was top class and timely while Terry [Connor] was impressed with Callum [Robinson]’s all-round game against Bristol City as well as with his ‘lucky’ header for his second goal in as many games.

"Alan Browne used his head as well for his goal. We just need them all to keep playing and keep scoring going into March."

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Read more about

Enda Stevens Euro 2020 Euro 2020 Playoffs FAI James Mcclean Mick McCarthy Preston North End Republic Of Ireland Scott Hogan Shane Long Sheffield United Slovakia Southampton Stoke City

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