Dunne loses fitness race as FAI tight-lipped over Gibson talks
RICHARD DUNNE is definitely out of Ireland's World Cup qualifiers with Sweden and Austria later this month, and Darron Gibson's exile from the international side looks set to continue.
Giovanni Trapattoni has confirmed Dunne's will be absent, a development which comes as no great surprise, given a recent setback that gave him little chance of recovering from his long-term groin problem.
The Italian will provide an update on Gibson when he names his squad in Abbotstown today. It's understood there has been contact with the midfielder this week, but the FAI have remained tight-lipped on the outcome of the talks.
However, it's believed that the player is still unsure about returning to the fold. He signed himself out of Trapattoni's squad on account of his bitterly disappointing Euro 2012 experience and, while some of his Irish team-mates have tried to cajole the 25-year-old into returning, there are no signs of a comeback just yet.
Another complication is an ongoing thigh problem that may require treatment in the summer, although Everton manager David Moyes said last week that he would not object to any call-up for the Derry native.
Gibson is a single-minded character and it is expected that he will eventually come back, but the ball is in his court as regards the time frame.
The unavailability of Dunne (left) is a major setback for the Italian who previously identified the Aston Villa veteran as his key man with regard to the onerous task of shackling Swedish dangerman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
On the bright side, full-backs Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson will be included after proving their well-being at club level, which means that John O'Shea is on course to start at centre-half alongside either Ciaran Clark or the returning Sean St Ledger, provided there is an injury free run over the next fortnight.
Meanwhile, Stephen Kelly will find out today if he has a future with Trapattoni after their spectacular public fall-out in the aftermath of last month's friendly success over Poland.
Shane Long will be on the list, but his fitness is a concern. West Brom boss Steve Clarke said that the striker is still suffering with pain in his ankle and revealed that he played through the pain barrier in his side's reverse at Chelsea.
Clarke confirmed he is a doubt for this weekend's showdown with Swansea.
"He is doubtful for the weekend, so that's a bitter loss for us, but the Irish will pick him for the squad and, hopefully, he will be involved next weekend for us at Stoke."
While the upcoming fixtures will have huge implications for Trapattoni's future, the FAI have tied up a friendly game with Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on June 2. It will bridge the gap between the Wembley date with England on May 29 and the June 7 qualifier with the Faroe Islands in Dublin.
The fixture will kick off at 5.30 and, in a boost for the amateur game, the FAI Junior Cup final will be held in the stadium at 1.30.
Holders Sheriff YC remain in the competition at the quarter-final stage along with Ballinasloe Town, Ballymun Utd, Carew Park, Kilbarrack United, Pearse Celtic, Pike Rovers and St Kevin's Boys.