JOHN O’SHEA has returned to full training for the first time since injuring his ankle in Sunderland’s final day of the season defeat to Manchester United.
But the Black Cats defender’s fitness remains a concern for the Republic of Ireland, with their opening Euro 2012 group game just nine days away.
O’Shea, along with ex-Newcastle United stopper Shay Given who had been suffering from a knee problem, both took part in Ireland’s training session in Italy yesterday, before participating in a practice game.
It was a welcome boost for O’Shea, whose participation at the Euros has grown increasingly precarious after almost three weeks on the sidelines.
Ireland hope O’Shea will be able to play a part in Monday’s friendly in Hungary and prove his fitness in the final warm-up game before the tournament gets underway.
But boss Giovanni Trapattoni is still not completely convinced by the 31-year-old’s recovery – admitting the former Man United man only has a “90 per cent” chance of featuring in Hungary.
“For him, the game is still the test,” said Trapattoni.
Meanwhile, former Ireland winger Kevin Sheedy has backed Sunderland winger James McClean to make an impact in Poland and the Ukraine.
Sheedy, now a youth-team coach at Everton, was impressed by McClean after watching Sunderland’s clashes with the Toffees in both the Premier League and the two FA Cup quarter final encounters last season.
“We played Sunderland twice in the FA Cup, as well as in the league this season, so I got a good look at him,” said Sheedy.
“He certainly caught the eye and I enjoyed watching him. He’s clearly very talented and possesses a great left foot. I like the fact he seems to play with no fear. He’s just burst on to the scene since around Christmas time.”
* Sunderland youngster Ryan Noble has undergone a hernia operation after completing his loan spell with League One Hartlepool United.
The striker, who should be fit for Sunderland’s pre-season campaign, is likely to return to Pools next season after scoring two in nine appearances during his two-month stay at Victoria Park.