Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy will wrap star men Darren Randolph and David McGoldrick in cotton wool as he prepares for the crunch Euro 2020 qualifier clash with Denmark.
Ever-present goalkeeper Randolph returned to action for club Middlesbrough in Saturday’s 2-2 Sky Bet Championship draw at QPR after three games on the sidelines with a thigh injury, while Sheffield United striker McGoldrick – who missed last month’s qualifiers in Georgia and Switzerland with a groin problem – is just four appearances into his comeback.
Neither man is likely to play any significant part in Thursday evening’s friendly against New Zealand as a result with McCarthy indicating he would be happy to start Randolph against the Danes on Monday even if he does not train this week.
“I’m delighted to have him back. Darren Randolph, we’ll have to look after him because he only came back on Saturday.
“It’s other players, players like Robbie Brady, who’s not been injured, but then had one game, and then he’s had two or three minutes since, so it’s kind of difficult balancing it between those who are playing and those who are not.
“But Robbie at least is back and he’s been back in the squad for Burnley.”
Ireland collected just a single point from last month’s fixtures in Tbilisi and Geneva to leave themselves needing to beat Denmark to secure an automatic qualification spot barring an unlikely series of events elsewhere.
Had McGoldrick, who scored a priceless late equaliser against the Swiss in Dublin in September, been available, things might have been different and McCarthy has acknowledged that – despite the emergence of Brighton teenager Aaron Connolly – he was missed.
He said: “I would always prefer to have my best players playing, and he has been our stand-out centre-forward, so any team of any ilk, any stature would miss a player like him, especially how he was playing, and he was loving it.
“The goal he scored against Switzerland, of course, I think everybody loved him for that.”
Connolly himself was due to undergo a scan on a groin strain in Brighton on Monday afternoon with McCarthy keeping his fingers crossed for good news.
In the meantime, he will concentrate on the task of picking a team for Thursday night which will not impinge upon Monday’s game with the likes of 17-year-old Tottenham striker Troy Parrott, Celtic full-back Lee O’Connor, Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne and in-form Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark likely to get game time.
He said: “There is scope for them to do themselves a whole lot of good. Whether that transmits into Monday, let’s find out.
“Let them get in and play well, let’s hope they play well and we win and let’s see how I feel about them after the game.”