McCarthy & Clark out of Ireland-Netherlands Euro 2016 warm-up friendly

James McCarthy Republic of Ireland 29032016
The midfielder and defender have been managing groin and ankle injuries respectively, but John O'Shea will start at the heart of defence

Everton midfielder James McCarthy and Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark have both been ruled out of the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 warm-up friendly with the Netherlands but should be available for the subsequent clash with Belarus on Tuesday, Martin O’Neill.

The Ireland squad met up in Dublin on Sunday evening for training and McCarthy trained for the first time on Thursday, albeit separately from the main squad. 

Despite the precaution, O’Neill is hopeful that the Toffees enforcer will be available for the game against Belarus in Cork.

"James McCarthy has done a little bit of training on his own and effectively wouldn’t be playing tomorrow and I think that I’d like to give Ciaran Clark a few extra days too," O’Neill told reporters. 

"I don’t see it being a problem. He might be fit for Tuesday and if he doesn’t play Tuesday, then it might be a bit of a concern. He has played a lot of games for Everton anyway, but if it’s a niggling injury, and he needs a few extra days to get over it, then so be it."

O’Neill was typically guarded when it came to questions about his team selection but did reveal that Sunderland defender John O’Shea will start in defence against the Netherlands at the Aviva Stadium.

The former Manchester United defender has been battling hamstring and calf strains throughout the season and although he has captained Ireland at different points throughout the qualifying campaign, he was benched during the second-leg play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina in November.

The 35-year-old has made just one start since the beginning of March, a 2-2 draw against Watford on the final day of the Premier League season, and he is hoping that his lack of game time will not be held against him when it comes to Euro 2016.

"Obviously competition for places is key, and that’s what we need, to make sure performances stay high, so that’s something I’ll be looking to do if I get the chance to play," O'Shea told reporters. 

"It’s always a case that when you play, you want to play well, but ultimately when the squad is announced everyone knows that they're fighting for that. 

"If you’re named in the 23, when the final squad is announced, then it’s a battle to get into the starting XI so it’s case of wait and see, but look, I’ve played plenty of games throughout my career and I know that I’ll be ready when needed and if called upon."

O’Shea faces fierce competition for a place in the starting XI as both Clark and Richard Keogh were the first-choice defensive partnership in the play-off triumph over Bosnia, while Blackburn Rovers defender Shane Duffy was awarded man of the match for his efforts during Ireland’s 1-0 win over Switzerland in March.

The four represent the only four centre backs remaining in O'Neill's squad, following Marc Wilson's injury and the exclusion of Paul McShane and Alex Pearce. 

While O’Shea wants to start, he has noted that he can feel the atmosphere start to change and the momentum begin to build as Ireland are less than three weeks away from their Group E opener against Sweden.

"It’s a major tournament and they’re very exciting times," the Waterford native added. "Everyone wants to be a part of it and the whole country is looking forward to it, not just everyone in the hotel in Castleknock.

"I think the atmosphere and enthusiasm around the group has just gotten stronger and stronger throughout this campaign but has probably gone up a notch as well.

"There’s massive enthusiasm building and everyone is looking forward to it, especially the other day at the stadium, it was a great turnout, the momentum is definitely building."