Belfast Telegraph

Injury dashes Walters' hopes of featuring in play-offs

By Damian Spellman

Jonathan Walters has been ruled out of the Republic of Ireland's World Cup play-off games.

The 34-year-old Burnley forward is currently sidelined with a knee problem.

It is understood he will not have recovered in time for the play-offs, the first legs of which will be staged between November 9 and 11, with the return fixtures then taking place over the following three days.

According to reports, Walters will be out of action until at least Christmas. As well as sitting out the Republic's matches against Wales on Monday and Moldova last week, Walters has not been involved in the Clarets' last two Premier League games.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche said ahead of the October 1 victory at Everton: "Jon won't make it as we are still letting his knee calm down. The knee has flared up and there is a settling down period for that type of injury, so we are unsure on timescales."

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill will learn at next week's draw whether they will face Switzerland, Italy, Croatia or Denmark in the play-offs.

Meanwhile, Harry Arter has admitted reaching the World Cup finals with the Republic would more than make up for his Euro 2016 misery.

The 27-year-old Bournemouth midfielder missed out on last summer's festivities in France after damaging a thigh muscle on the eve of the squad's departure.

However, he was in the thick of the action as Ireland booked themselves a play-off berth with a 1-0 victory in Wales on Monday evening.

Asked if his misfortune had provided added motivation, Arter said: "Yes, but even if I did go to the Euros, to play in a World Cup is... I wouldn't say a much bigger competition, but it's the pinnacle for any footballer.

"It's a tournament that's only every four years and for a nation like Ireland to qualify would be a massive achievement."

Ireland's hopes looked to have been dashed last month when they failed to win in Georgia and then lost for the first time in the campaign to Serbia in Dublin.

However, back-to-back victories over Moldova and Wales, who had not lost a competitive match in Cardiff for four years, catapulted them back into second place in Group D.

Their work is far from done, however, with one of the four seeded teams standing between them and their dreams, but having beaten world champions Germany, perennial European challengers Italy and now Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales, Arter is not afraid of what may lie ahead.

He said: "This group always responds to big games and big occasions, this is just another one. You look at Italy in the Euros and Germany just before that in the qualifying campaign - this side has proved that we can beat anyone on our day.

"This was a huge game and we came out victorious. We'll definitely attack the play-off games with confidence.

"We've played against Italy in a game where we had to win, we've played against Germany where we've had to win, and Wales."

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