Richie Foran gives Inverness fitness boost ahead of Astra tie

Richie Foran at Caley Thistle training
Richie Foran is back in training after suffering an injury in March 2014

Richie Foran is ready to make a long-awaited return from injury to lead Inverness's Europa League challenge.

The Inverness captain has been out for the Scottish Cup winners since suffering a knee injury against Dundee United in March last year.

But the Irishman has declared himself fit for the Highlanders' meeting with Romanians Astra Giurgiu on Thursday.

He said: "I played for the development squad last Saturday, so I'm just trying to push myself into the squad."

The Irishman has had to be content with a place on the sidelines as John Hughes' men won their first major trophy and clinched a place in European football.

However, he is determined to play a part in their European adventure.

"I'm going very well," he told BBC Scotland. "I'm ahead of schedule at the moment. I've been training with the first team for two or three weeks now.

Inverness captain Richie Foran
Foran has not played competitively for the Caley Thistle first team since 26 March 2014

"I was aiming for the first league game of the season, but I've looked after myself while I've been off.

"I'm obviously lacking a bit of fitness and match sharpness, but I played a full 90 minutes for my first game in 16 months and I lasted the pace well enough.

"I'm thinking, if I can do 90 minutes with the under-20s, I can do 10 or 15 minutes with the first team."

Inverness are expecting close to a full house for the first leg with the side that finished fourth in the Romanian league and drew at home to Celtic in the group stage last season.

Foran says Caley Thistle are relishing their first taste of European action.

"We're here to win the game, we're here to qualify," said the 35-year-old. "We really need to keep a clean sheet - that's what we really need and that's what our game plan is.

"Hopefully we can nick a goal or two and give ourselves a chance to get through.

"It's historic for the team, for the city, for all the supporters.

"Times have changed now - we used to be battling relegation three or four seasons ago. We're going really well at the moment, up against a difficult team.

"Obviously they're going to be favourites, but we're going into it positive."