Martin O'Neill happy to have "talisman" Jon Walters fit

The Republic of Ireland manager prepares his squad for the visit of Austria on Sunday afternoon

Jonathan Walters, Martin O'Neill

Image: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Martin O'Neill expressed relief to have forward Jonathan Walters fully fit ahead of the visit of Austria on Sunday evening.

The Republic of Ireland can return to the summit of Group D tomorrow evening should they avoid a defeat, but have been struck with injuries in key areas over the last few months.

David McGoldrick was one of the high profile causalities in the squad after their friendlies last week and left after struggling with a knee injury.

Walters, one of two strikers available to O'Neill, sat out training on Friday as a precaution but appeared alongside the Ireland manager on Saturday afternoon - an indication that he looks set to feature in tomorrow's game.

O'Neill was complimentary of his impact since taking over the position in the run-up to the 2016 European Championships.

"Jon was our talisman in our European qualifications and unfortunately picked up an injury before the big competition started - he was injured in training," he said.

"He played little bits here and there, but he wasn't fully fit. So it's nice now to have him on board. He's been terrific since I've come in and even before that."

He added: "To borrow one of Roy's phrases, he was a great warrior for us. But more than that, he's got ability and has helped us immensely in the last number of years."

Walters said that the side remain focused on the task at hand and, despite victory away to Austria earlier in the campaign, won't be taking anything for granted in the race for World Cup qualification.

"We know if we win tomorrow the gap will be bigger but we've been on either end of that situation. We came back in the last qualifying campaign to upset the odds," the Stoke striker said.

"Even if we get a win tomorrow, there are some very difficult games coming up. Wales away, Serbia at home. We've got to play everyone again. 

"There are teams up there fighting for it, so we'll reassess come tomorrow evening."

Ireland and Austria kick off at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday at 5pm.