Darren Randolph is hoping to be fit to play in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark next month despite missing last two matches through injury.
Randolph is manager Mick McCarthy’s biggest concern ahead of the game, and Sheffield Wednesday’s Keiren Westwood is one of four other goalkeepers named in a provisional squad in case he does not make either that match or the preceding friendly at home to New Zealand on November 14.
Randolph has missed Boro’s last two games with a thigh problem, and club manager Jonathan Woodgate suggested last week the international break could come too soon for him, but McCarthy is more optimistic.
“Darren is hopeful at this point in time that he will be fit to report in with the rest of the squad on the Sunday ahead of the New Zealand game,” he said.
“The Denmark match is three weeks away still and Darren is confident that he has enough time on his side to get over the injury and play for us in the game that can get us to the Euros.”
Aynsley Pears, son of former Ayresome Park favourite Stephen, has made his first Championship appearances for Boro in Randolph’s absence.
Randolph is as crucial to his country as he is to his club, and is certain to face the Danes if he can prove his fitness.
Having missed the chance to qualify for next year’s European Championships when they lost 2-0 in Switzerland last month, the Irish can book their place with victory on November 18.
Denmark are level on points with Ireland and Switzerland one behind, but both play games in hand they will be expected to win the previous Friday. They host Gibraltar and Georgia respectively.
Assuming no surprise result in Gibraltar, Ireland will need to beat Denmark in Dublin to qualify automatically, although they could still make the play-offs if they do not.
“We know what we have to do against Denmark and we will look to the tried and the trusted to win that game but who knows what will happen against New Zealand?” McCarthy commented.
“Maybe someone will take their chance in that match and give me something to think about.”
Westwood could be given the chance to stake a claim against the All Whites having himself returned from a minor ankle injury at the weekend. He made an outstanding save from Patrick Bamford in the Owls’ 0-0 draw at home to Leeds United.
McCarthy has confirmed he will have a scout watching the Owls’s weekend game against Blackburn Rovers to double-check Westwood’s fitness.
Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick is also back in the party after missing October’s matches against Georgia and Switzerland with a hamstring strain.
McGoldrick has started the Blades’s last two matches, against Arsenal and West Ham United, and scored an 85th-minute equaliser in his last international appearance, at home to the Swiss. It is his only goal so far this season.
Club-mates John Egan, Enda Stevens and Callum Robinson are also in the squad.
Goalkeepers: Randolph (Middlesbrough), Travers (Bournemouth), O'Hara (Burton Albion - on loan from Manchester United), Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Kelleher (Liverpool)
Defenders: Doherty (Wolves), Christie (Fulham), Egan (Sheffield United), Duffy (Brighton), K Long (Burnley), Stevens (Sheffield United), Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Clark (Newcastle United), Williams (Blackburn Rovers), Manning (QPR), Collins (Stoke City)
Midfielders: O'Dowda (Bristol City), Hourihane (Aston Villa), Cullen (Charlton - on loan from West Ham), Whelan (Hearts), Browne (Preston), Brady (Burnley), McClean (Stoke City), Hendrick (Burnley), McCarthy (Crystal Palace), Judge (Ipswich Town), Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)
Forwards: Connolly (Brighton), McGoldrick (Sheffield United), Collins (Luton Town), Maguire (Preston), Robinson (Sheffield United), O'Brien (Millwall), Sadlier (Doncaster Rovers), Curtis (Portsmouth), Long (Southampton), Obafemi (Southampton), Parrott (Tottenham), Hogan (Stoke City - loan from Aston Villa)