By Will Butcher
Martin O’Neill is unconcerned over the fitness of defender Ciaran Clark after he was substituted from Newcastle’s clash against Fulham.
Clark, 27, is currently recovering from a knee injury sustained against the in-form Londoners on Saturday, who beat Newcastle 3-1 at St. James’ Park.
However, O’Neil has opted to include the former Aston Villa defender in his provisional 39-man Ireland squad, which was posted on Ireland’s official Twitter account.
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) March 13, 2017
O’Neill was optimistic over the fitness of the 24-time international who could now be set to feature against Wales and Iceland later this month.
“I’m hoping that Ciaran’s injury is not that serious,” O’Neill said, as quoted by the Shields Gazette.
“I don’t know for sure but I don’t think it is, I think it [taking him off against Fulham] was just precautionary.”
Clark has been one of the first names on Rafa Benitez’s team sheet this season alongside captain Jamaal Lascelles at the heart of the Toon defence, keeping out both Chancel Mbemba and Grant Hanley.
The tough-tackling defender has made 34 league and cup appearances since his summer move north from Midlands giants Villa, keeping 14 clean sheets in the process.
Despite Clark’s call-up to the Ireland squad, the defender could be forced to miss Saturday’s trip to Birmingham as he continues to recover from the injury.
A win for the Toon will see them consolidate their position at the top of the Championship table, and could go six points clear of Brighton if play-off contenders Leeds beat the Seagulls.
In other Newcastle news, the Magpies face a battle with three Champions League clubs for this teenage sensation.