Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Striker Keane gets on his bike in bid to return to fitness for squad

By Damian Spellman

Robbie Keane is on his bike as he works his way back to fitness ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 finals campaign.

The 35-year-old striker will not train with his team-mates until the middle of next week at the earliest after suffering a calf injury last weekend, by which time the Republic will have taken up residence at the finals base at Versailles.

However, as the rest of the squad went through their paces in bright sunshine at the Fota Island resort in Cork yesterday Keane, who had watched the warm-ups, took to a mountain bike under the supervision of medical staff.

Jonathan Walters did not train once again as he nursed a kick to the calf, but James McCarthy was in the thick of the action for the second successive day after shaking of an end-of-season  hamstring injury.

McCarthy is confident he will be fit for the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 opener against Sweden after bouncing back from a fitness scare.

The 25-year-old midfielder feared the worst when he reported for duty having picked up an injury to the groin and hamstring area in Everton’s final-day Premier League victory over Norwich.

Alarm bells started ringing for the Scottish-born ace when he was unable to train with his team-mates at all ahead of last Friday night’s 1-1 friendly draw with Holland.

However, he was eased back into action from Monday after the squad had re-assembled in Cork and after being named in Martin O’Neill’s 23 for the finals on Tuesday has gradually stepped up his work this week to the point where he was able to train with the rest of the group on both Thursday and Friday.

He had worked alone after completing the warm-up ahead of Wednesday morning’s session.

Asked if he would be ready to line up against the Swedes at the Stade de France on June 13, McCarthy said: “Yes, I should be fine.

“I’ve trained with the team the last couple of days and hopefully now I can step it up.

“It’s obviously good to be back training again with the squad and hopefully now I can kick on and step up the fitness.”

Manager O’Neill has kept his fingers crossed with McCarthy a key member of his team, and his return to fitness will have come as a relief.

He initially told the media the player’s injury was a thigh problem, although it has since emerged that was not the case.

The midfielder said: “It’s hamstring, groin — it’s a bit of both, to be honest — but as I say, I am back training and delighted to be back with the squad.”

McCarthy’s return to the fold has been the one piece of good fitness news for O’Neill this week with the tournament fast approaching.

Keane and fellow striker Walters were both spectators once again at the Fota Island Resort on yesterday morning as the rest of the squad went through its paces, both of them nursing calf problems.

Keane was under the watchful eye of physio Tony McCarthy as he took to a mountain bike as the striker’s recovery is carefully supervised.

However, he did show off his hurling skills as he and staff member Dick Redmond tested out each other’s ability at the GAA sport.

The Republic will head for France on the back of a first defeat in six matches with a virtual second string side having performed poorly to lose 2-1 to Belarus at Turner’s Cross on Tuesday evening, much to the annoyance of assistant manager Roy Keane.

They will do so determined to improve upon their showing Poland four years ago when they returned home having not managed to take a single point from their three games.

However, there is little danger of the players being allowed to get ahead of themselves.

McCarthy, who ruled himself out of contention for the squad in 2012 after his father was diagnosed with cancer, said: “There’s a massive excitement about the place, but we’ll take it a game at a time and we won’t get too carried away.

“Obviously the boss and the likes of Roy and the backroom staff, they know how important it is to not look too far forward.

“We have got a tough group, don’t get me wrong, but we’ll take it a game at a time.

“Each and everyone one of us who is going on the plane and travelling to France, we know it’s going to be tough, but there’s a real excitement about the place and we are looking forward to it.”

Walters has given O’Neill a fresh concern after he picked up a knock in training.

The 32-year-old Stoke striker didn’t train on Thursday or yesterday after taking a blow to the calf on Wednesday.

He went off to work in the gym with the physios, although the initial indications are that the problem is not too serious.

The players were due some down-time later in the day, with a round of golf on the final day of their pre-tournament training camp in Cork before a weekend off in advance of the journey to the Euro 2016 finals.

Belfast Telegraph Digital