Striker Jonathan Walters could yet have a part to play in the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup play-off against Denmark.
The 34-year-old Burnley frontman has not kicked a ball since Ireland’s 1-1 Group D draw in Georgia in September because of a niggling knee injury.
International boss Martin O’Neill did not include Walters in his 34-man provisional squad for next month’s two-legged showdown with the Danes, but later admitted he has not yet closed the door on him.
O’Neill told a press conference: “I haven’t put him in at the moment, but he’s making good progress and we’ll see what the next 10 days brings.
“He’s making exceptionally good progress, but we’ll see.”
The prospect of Walters having an outside chance of making the play-off – Ireland face Denmark at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on Saturday, November 11 and again at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin three days later – comes after Burnley played down suggestions that he could be out of action until Christmas.
The former Stoke man was O’Neill’s talisman during the ultimately successful bid to reach the finals of Euro 2016 with his double in the second leg of their play-off against Bosnia & Herzegovina ultimately booking a trip to France.
He has contributed a single goal to their campaign to date, a late equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Austria in June.
Walters has, when fit, worn the captain’s armband in the absence of skipper Seamus Coleman, whose recovery from the double leg fracture he suffered against Wales in March is continuing apace.
There was no place in the squad for Coleman, who has spent time with the Ireland squad when the players have assembled this season, but O’Neill revealed he is close to making a comeback.
He said: “If the play-off was in a month, we could be looking at a different story. It has just come too early.”
However, Coleman’s club-mate James McCarthy has been included hours after making his first competitive appearance of the season.
The 26-year-old midfielder played 64 minutes of Everton’s 2-1 Carabao Cup defeat at Chelsea on Wednesday evening after finally overcoming the knee injury he sustained in pre-season.
He joined up with the squad last month but took no part in the victories over Moldova and the Welsh which booked a play-off place.
McCarthy’s fitness or otherwise was repeatedly a source of tension between O’Neill and Toffees boss Ronald Koeman, who was sacked earlier this week, for much of the Dutchman’s time at Goodison Park.
Elsewhere, Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood returns from a rib injury, while Hull midfielder David Meyler, who will miss the first leg through suspension, is also included.
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Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Rob Elliot (Newcastle), Colin Doyle (Bradford); Cyrus Christie (Middlesbrough), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Paul McShane (Reading), Richard Keogh (Derby), Shane Duffy (Brighton), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Kevin Long, Stephen Ward (both Burnley); Aiden McGeady (Sunderland), Daryl Horgan, Alan Browne (both Preston), Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane (both Aston Villa), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), James McCarthy (Everton), Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick (both Burnley), Eunan O’Kane (Leeds), David Meyler (Hull), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Jonny Hayes (Celtic), James McClean (West Brom); Shane Long (Southampton), Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest), David McGoldrick (Ipswich), Sean Maguire (Preston), Scott Hogan (Aston Villa), Aiden O’Brien (Millwall).