Martin O'Neill is convinced James McClean will be ready psychologically for the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Wales despite a difficult week off the field.

The 27-year-old West Brom midfielder was devastated to learn of the death of close friend and Derry City skipper Ryan McBride at the weekend.

McClean was given leave to travel up to his native Derry from the Republic's base on the outskirts of Dublin to pay his respects to the family on Tuesday ahead of the funeral on Thursday morning, but O'Neill is confident he is now fully focused on Friday night's game.

The Ireland manager said: "James plays with emotion anyway. If there's anybody you can talk about wearing his heart on his sleeve, that's exactly it - almost literally.

"I don't have any problem with that. James is an emotional character, always has been. He was devastated because he knew the lad very well as he played with him.

"Having gone up to the wake, he is fully focused on the game tomorrow."

McClean has become an increasingly influential player in O'Neill's team, scoring twice in the 3-1 qualifier victory in Moldova in October and then claiming the only goal in a priceless 1-0 win in Austria in November.

His pace and trickery could prove key against the Welsh with dangerman Robbie Brady suspended and playmaker Wes Hoolahan among a catalogue of injured men.

Martin O'Neill meets the media

Meanwhile, O'Neill says James McCarthy's hamstring injury is 'improving very quickly', though no decision has yet been made about the Everton midfielder's inclusion for the game with Wales on Friday.

McCarthy had appeared all-but ruled out of this game and his club manager Ronald Koeman only recently said that he would be ruled out for up to two weeks.

Last year O’Neill and Koeman traded verbal blows in a heated verbal exchange over the player after he returned to Goodison Park injured.

Speaking at Thursday afternoon’s media conference ahead of Friday’s Group D Russia 2018 qualifier against Wales at the Aviva Stadium, the Republic of Ireland boss said: “James McCarthy is improving very quickly.

“He's done some work. He's feeling much better so we'll assess it this afternoon.”

If McCarthy does play it would be a major pre-match boost with Ireland currently in the midst of an injury and suspension crisis, that sees key men like Brady and Hoolihan ruled out for the crunch clash.

However, O’Neill remains confident that his replacements are good enough to do the job and he had praise for Aiden McGeady, who has found a rich vein of form since his transfer to English Championship side Preston North End.

“We've lost a couple of big players, but we have players that can come in, that want to come in, and want to be a part of it,” said O’Neill.

“Aiden is in great form at the moment. Because of the games he's getting he looks in great shape. It's good for us."

Ireland currently sit top of Group D with ten points from three wins and a draw from four games.

Victory over Wales would leave them in great position at the half-way stage of the campaign, though O’Neill warns that it will take a performance the equal of the 1-0 win over Italy last year which took the Boys in Green to the Euro 2016 knock-out stages in France.

“I think we'll have to produce a performance like the one against Italy. The players are ready for it,” he said.

“There is a distance to go in the group. Tomorrow is only the halfway point. Teams are capable of taking points off each other.

We have to prove ourselves in every single game and tomorrow night is no different. We are ready for it.”

Watch Republic of Ireland v Wales live on RTÉ2 from 7pm Friday, listen live on 2fm's Game On and follow our live blog on and the News Now app.