MICK McCARTHY claims Ciaran Clark has been a pivotal figure in Newcastle’s recent renaissance, and is ready to hand the centre-half a key role in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifying decider with Denmark.

Ireland host Denmark in Dublin next Monday knowing a win in their final qualifier will guarantee a place at next summer’s European finals, with Clark restored to the fold for the first time in just over a year.

McCarthy opted to recall the 30-year-old after being impressed with his recent contributions on the club stage, where his return to Newcastle’s starting line-up has coincided with the club’s best run of results under Steve Bruce.

Clark has started the Magpies’ last five matches as they have climbed to 13th position in the table, scoring in last two wins over West Ham United and Bournemouth, and McCarthy has not been surprised at the quality of his contributions.

“I watched him at West Ham, I thought Newcastle were brilliant to be quite honest,” said the Republic of Ireland boss. “He has scored a couple of goals, but he is not somebody I need to watch. He is not like a new player we have suddenly found.

“I know Ciaran, he was in my first squad. It (the fact he has not been selected recently) is just the fact that he has been injured. Now, he has been playing, and Newcastle have had some good results. Maybe that is partly down to him as well.”

Clark is set to win his 33rd international cap when Ireland warm up for the qualifying decider with a home friendly against New Zealand on Thursday evening.

They host Denmark four days after that, and while Clark’s availability is a major boost, McCarthy admits to having suffered something of a scare when he thought the defender had been forced to sit out last weekend’s win over Bournemouth.

“I was looking at one of the apps with the teams, and he wasn’t even in the squad, so I rang him to ask, ‘Are you injured?’” said McCarthy. “But then I looked back at Newcastle’s game and he had scored, so I sent him a text message telling him to ignore my voicemail and that I was delighted he had scored.”

Meanwhile, Matt Ritchie has turned down the opportunity to return to the Scotland squad and called time on his international career.

Steve Clarke approached Ritchie, who has been sidelined since August with an ankle injury, to offer an opportunity to return to the fold after the winger had withdrawn from international selection under Alex McLeish.

However, Ritchie uses the international breaks to spend time with his family in Hampshire, and does not feel his club form would benefit from a return to the Scotland ranks.