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Walters a doubt for Georgia showdown

Wednesday, 30th August, 2017 5:03pm

Martin O’Neill is sweating over the fitness of Jonathan Walters ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Georgia on Saturday.

The Burnley striker has been unable to train with the squad this week, ahead of the weekend’s away tie, and is suffering with an ankle injury that saw him sidelined for Burnley’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Sunday.

Assistant manager Roy Keane confirmed that Walters is a doubt but is hopeful he will be fit in time.

“Jon is a very important player in the dressing room, he’s a leader,” said Keane.

“Fingers crossed he is fit. The fact he’s here with the squd makes you think he’s in with a chance. It’s a long way to travel but that won’t be any excuse. It’s the same for everyone, we’re well looked after.

“I don’t want any players picking up daft cards but you’ve got to be up for it. Focus on Saturday, it’s like a normal week.”

Ireland have yet to ever lose to Georgia in their history, their last victory coming in October 2016, a 1-0 win in the Aviva Stadium in this qualifying campaign.

Keane said: “We’ve played Georgia several times over the last few years and it has always been tough. We’re positive though.”

Midfielders Jeff Hendrick (thigh) and James McCarthy (hamstring) are ruled out of the qualifiers against Georgia and Tuesday’s against Serbia at the Aviva Stadium.

Eunan O’Kane has returned to Leeds to continue treatment for an ongoing groin injury and Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has trained on his own after being forced off against Burton at the weekend.

Meanwhile, former Cork City striker Seanie Maguire has not been included in the finalised squad of 25 but Keane believes the Preston North End man was unlucky to have missed out and may still be involved following the Georgia tie.

"He was probably slightly unlucky, and maybe experience comes into it. There’s a few days to play with and don’t rule him out of getting involved next week.

“Let’s see how the next few days go with the first game this weekend. I’ve seen him once or twice this season and he seems nice and sharp. If he keeps playing regularly for Preston, obviously he will want to get a few more goals under his belt, but he’ll be in with a shout."

Maguire was awarded the man of the match award in Preston’s 0-0 draw with Middlesborough at the weekend.

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