Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has hit back at Everton manager Ronald Koeman as once again the fitness of James McCarthy remains an issue ahead of a World Cup qualifier.

McCarthy is struggling with a hamstring injury and O’Neill admits it is a race against time for the midfielder to be fit for the clash with Austria on Saturday week in Vienna.

“I have included James at this minute. Speaking to him, James is improving day-by-day. If the game for instance was this weekend, he wouldn’t make it. The following weekend? I would say he would be doubtful at this minute.  He needs to get some proper training in.

“He has been doing a little bit, but it’s one of those. I’ll leave him in for the provisional squad and we’ll see how things go. Obviously he wouldn’t make it this week and he would need to something a little bit before that.”

The Everton man was included for the wins over Georgia and Moldova despite just overcoming a thigh problem and it led to criticism from Koeman who said he had been “massively overloaded” in his comeback.

But O’Neill responded today by saying McCarthy had shown he was fine by training with his club on the day his club manager made the comments.

“No I totally refute that as well too obviously, getting an opportunity to respond. Considering that James had declared himself fit, he played the first game. He didn’t come off through injury [against Moldova], he came off through tiredness.

“And remarkably he actually trained on the very day at Everton that the manager was bleating about it.”

Asked why felt McCarthy had been overloaded, O’Neill said: “I have no idea. I think you’d have to ask him.”

Shane Long will miss out due to the injury sustained against Inter Milan in the Europa League after the Ireland boss consulted the Southampton physio.

There are doubts over John O’Shea and Stephen Ward but they will also be given time to prove their fitness.