Shane Long play-off doubt as comeback put on hold
Irish striker will report for Bosnia play-off without club outing
Shane Long has been ruled out of Southampton's final game before the Euro 2016 play-off with Bosnia, a development which places a question mark over his involvement in the two-legged decider.
Saints boss Ronald Koeman suggested that Long had been close to figuring in their Premier League encounter with Sunderland but a slight setback in training left him short of peak condition.
The Tipperary man is due to report for Irish duty next week, albeit without the benefit of a run-out since he sustained ankle ligament damage in Poland last month.
It will present a dilemma for Ireland boss Martin O'Neill when he assesses his forward options, especially as he is without the suspended Jon Walters for the first leg. David McGoldrick, who is rated highly by O'Neill, is another doubt because of a groin issue.
"Shane is still missing," said Koeman, "He was close to coming back and he was able to do some training with the first team on Wednesday. But he is still not 100pc. He needs to be 100 per cent to be part of our squad and so he is not involved for the weekend."
The good news for O'Neill is that John O'Shea is available for tomorrow afternoon's Premier League encounter after coming through training this week.
O'Shea is banned for the Zenica leg, and his planned introduction for the Dublin decider on Monday week was placed in doubt by a hamstring tweak.
Sam Allardyce has reported that the 34-year-old is in good condition and the Waterford native's old United team-mate Rio Ferdinand feels that his experience will be vital if Ireland are to contain Edin Dzeko.
"He will be missed (on Friday)," said Ferdinand. "In the big games, he's one of the ones you rely on to put in a decent performance so the other guys are going to have to stand up and be counted. John was always reliable. We used to call him the mayor of Waterford because I went there with United as a kid after signing. He wasn't even a regular in the team and they were more interested in Sheasy. It was unbelievable. He was just a young kid but in Waterford he was the man. I'd love to see him go to another tournament.
"Dzeko is a good player that I've played against a few times and I was surprised Man City let him go. He's a top-level player, he's physical and strong and he puts them away more often than not. If the quality comes in, he's hard to stop. The best thing Ireland can do is stop him at source - stop him getting it.
"You've got Pjanic, who is probably their best player, and if he gets time on the ball to deliver he's deadly. "
Meanwhile, Ireland have jumped up 12 places to 42nd in the FIFA rankings on account of their famous win over Germany. Bosnia are up to 20th.