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Duffy links up with Republic for Georgia qualifier

Shane Duffy will fly to Georgia with the rest of the Republic of Ireland squad on Thursday after being declared fit for Saturday evening’s Euro 2020 qualifier.

The 27-year-old defender was not named in Mick McCarthy’s initial 24-man squad as he attempted to work his way back from a calf injury at his club Brighton, but was due to head for Dublin on Wednesday afternoon after being given the all-clear.

Striker David McGoldrick will miss the trip to Tbilisi as he continues his recovery from a groin problem, but still has a chance of being involved in Tuesday’s Group D clash with Switzerland in Geneva.

Duffy’s fitness represents a significant boost for McCarthy, who has already lost his central defensive partner Richard Keogh to a knee injury and left-back Enda Stevens to suspension for the game at the Boris Paichadze Arena.

McCarthy told FAI TV: “I’ve just had a text from him saying he’s been given the all-clear this morning. He’s trained with the lads, so he must have done some football work, so that’s good news.

“He’s on a flight this afternoon and he’ll be with us to travel to Georgia tomorrow. All along, he’s been pretty confident he’d be okay.

“It wasn’t as bad as they thought so he’s been running all week, and he said he’s trained with the team this morning so if he’s done full training, he’s fine.”

The news came after McCarthy revealed on Monday that he had reserved a seat on the plane for one of his key men just in case.

He said: “I’ve just told Shane via a text message, ‘The plane is leaving at 2pm from Dublin Airport to Tbilisi, so we’ll keep a seat with extra leg room as we always do, so don’t be late’.”

Duffy is expected to train with the rest of the squad at Abbotstown on Thursday morning before the flight to Georgia.

He will not be joined by frontman McGoldrick, who like Duffy has started all five qualifiers to date, but the Sheffield United marksman could yet have a part to play in this month’s key fixtures.

McCarthy said: “I spoke to Didsy yesterday. He was still feeling it actually, the groin, so I said to him, ‘Look, Saturday’s going to be far too soon’.

“But if he’s all right and it turns out he trains over the weekend, he might still be an option – as a sub, I would have thought – in Switzerland, maybe not starting after three weeks.

“But it would be a nice problem to have, for him to be here so I have to pick him.”

Should Duffy suffer no reaction, he is likely to line up alongside either John Egan or Kevin Long on Saturday night, while James Collins, Scott Hogan, Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire and uncapped teenager Aaron Connolly will hope for a chance to fill McGoldrick’s boots.