The Irish squad faces more trouble with John O’Shea having been ruled out of the trip to Moscow to face Russia in the Euro 2012 qualifiers after succumbing to calf and hip strains and has returned to Sunderland for treatment.
With Seán St Ledger suspended, O’Shea was arguably the most important player remaining in the Republic of Ireland squad. His absence will now force Giovanni Trapattoni into some difficult decisions, with Kevin Foley, Stephen Kelly and Darren O’Dea waiting in the wings to fill two places.
“The Football Association of Ireland today confirmed that following medical examination, John O’Shea has been declared unfit to take part in Tuesday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Russia,” a statement read. “John was suffering from a calf and hip strain and will return to his club later this evening. All other players in the squad will travel to Moscow, departing this afternoon at 2.30pm.”
O’Shea was favourite to replace St Ledger alongside Richard Dunne in the centre of defence, having been deployed at right-back in the 0-0 draw with Slovakia in Dublin on Friday night.
Without 50 per cent of his first choice defense - not including the absence of veteran Kevin Kilbane from left-back - Trapattoni now has to decide who to deploy at right back and central defense.
The only natural centre back available to him is O’Dea, who played well in the 2-0 win over Italy alongside St Ledger in June, but Kelly is also an option. The latter might also be considered for the right-back slot, with Wolves man Foley capable of starting there as well.
When Marco Tardelli admitted this morning that O’Shea was a doubt for the game, he also hinted at question mark over the fitness of goalkeeper Shay Given, who has been nursing a back strain since the Aston Villa’s stalemate with Wolves 10 day’s ago.
“I don’t know because the doctors are together for the scan,” said Tardelli this morning when asked about the Donegalman.
With three games remaining, Ireland need to win against Russia to have any realistic hope of topping the group. They finish with a visit to Andorra and a home game against Armenia in October. Both are winnable, but without victory on Tuesday, their fate will be in the hands of others.