By Damian Spellman, PA
Chiedozie Ogbene and Alan Browne are facing a race against time to be fit for the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Greece and Gibraltar next month.
Frontman Ogbene is working his way back from a hamstring injury suffered during Rotherham’s 1-0 Sky Bet Championship win over Middlesbrough on May 1, while Preston midfielder Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from medial ligament damage sustained at QPR on April 7.
Speaking after a four-day training camp with his EFL and League of Ireland-based players in Bristol, manager Stephen Kenny said: “Chiedozie Ogbene had a hamstring tear with Rotherham and hasn’t been able to participate this week, so we’ll have to see how that is. Alan Browne as well, [is] coming back from a medial injury, so these are dilemmas for us.”
Ogbene in particular has become a key member of Kenny’s team – he started the 1-0 defeat by World Cup finalists France at the Aviva Stadium in March as Ireland opened their Group B campaign – while Browne has scored against Belgium, Scotland and Norway in the last year or so.
The squad is due to be finalised next week – Atletico Madrid defender Matt Doherty will join up after his club’s final LaLiga fixture at Villarreal on June 4 – before preparations begin in earnest.
Despite a resilient display against Didier Deschamps’ men, the Republic know they may need to take maximum points from June’s double-header – they face Greece in Athens on Friday, June 16 and Gibraltar in Dublin three days later – if they are to force their way out of a difficult group which also includes the Netherlands.
That, however, may prove easier said than done in the heat of the Greek capital – Ireland will spend nine days training in the Turkish resort of Antalya in a bid to acclimatise – and with the hosts having topped their group in Nations League C.
Kenny said: “Greece are a good team, they won their Nations League group so we’re going to have to really perform to a high level. We need to make sure we are absolutely 100 per cent, and going to Turkey will help us, training in similar conditions, get ourselves ready.
“We go to Athens on the Wednesday and play on the Friday against Greece before we come back and play, and I heard that 42,00 have already been sold for Gibraltar, which is fantastic. It would be great to have a full house there if we could on the Monday night.
“But at the moment, we’re firmly focused on our preparations for that, and I think that will give us a chance, our preparations here, coming to Bristol, going to Turkey.
“Hopefully some of the players can come through some of their injury difficulties and if so, we want to make sure we’re ready.”