Clarets striker is injury concern for Ireland

Jon Walters
Jon Walters

Martin O'Neill will give talisman Jonathan Walters every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Republic of Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Serbia.

The 33-year-old striker missed Burnley's 1-1 Premier League draw at Tottenham on Sunday with an ankle problem and was unable to train fully after meeting up with the Ireland squad in Dublin on Monday.

However, given his importance to his country with Robbie Keane now retired from international football and the vastly-experienced John O'Shea playing a peripheral role in recent months, O'Neill is desperate to have one of his key men fighting fit for Saturday's tough trip to Tbilisi and the clash with the Serbs which follows it.

He said: "He's been really important for us. During the Euros - I think I said this on a number of occasions - in the qualification group, he became the talisman.

"His whole presence is very, very important to us in every aspect. It's great to have him around the place. He's got a great attitude and he enjoys playing as well, and we enjoy having him around because he's so influential to us.

"I'm pleased with Jon as a person for a start, and when he plays, you talk about the genuine 100 per center. He's there for you and that's been a hallmark of his career."

It was Walters' double in the play-off second leg against Bosnia-Herzegovina which secured Ireland's place at the Euro 2016 finals, and his equaliser against Austria in June ensured the Republic remain firmly in the hunt for World Cup qualification from Group D.

He is expected to train on Tuesday, but if he does not, O'Neill insists he will not be unduly concerned.

He said: "We are where we are and if Jon doesn't train for a day or two, but still declares himself fit, I will be happy because it's happened in the past for us where he hasn't trained at times and he's come in and been terrific for us."

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