Irish boss faces anxious wait as Duff hoodoo strikes again
DAMIEN DUFF will be assessed by Irish medical staff today after his latest stroke of misfortune before an international double-header.
The Fulham star limped off during his side's Premier League draw with West Ham on Saturday, meaning he is a doubt for the Euro 2012 double-header with Russia at the Aviva Stadium on Friday, and Slovakia in Zilina tomorrow week.
Duff has been remarkably unlucky when it comes to Irish games in the last three years. After coming through the start of this season unscathed, he then picked up a calf injury in his final outing before the September qualifiers against Armenia and Andorra.
That brings to 12 the amount of competitive matches he has been unavailable for since September '07. Giovanni Trapattoni does have options in the wide department, and has to decide whether to reintroduce Duff or retain Aiden McGeady and Liam Lawrence.
However, it is likely that the Dubliner would start, so the Italian will be nervously awaiting today's prognosis.
There was better news for the 71-year-old at the weekend when Richard Dunne returned to action in Aston Villa's 2-1 defeat at Spurs.
The central defender was absent from his club's previous two games with a recurring knee problem, but he came through the full 90 minutes at White Hart Lane.
Unfortunately, it was another inactive weekend for Dunne's good friend, Robbie Keane. The Irish skipper was an unused substitute in the London encounter.
Trapattoni faces something of a dilemma in midfield. Keith Andrews is fit and available again, but was another who didn't see any action, stuck in a watching brief during Blackburn's defeat at Stoke.
The Irish boss must decide if the 30-year-old will be sharp enough to participate in such important games, considering he has only 24 minutes of first-team football since his comeback from the groin problem that ruled him out of the Armenian and Andorran matches.
Paul Green stepped in to deputise, and the Derby man does have the benefit of regular football.
He did suffer a nervy start in Yerevan, though, and Trapattoni might prefer the experience of Andrews, who grew into the central midfield role as the World Cup qualification campaign progressed.
The Irish team train at Malahide today, as preparations for the visit of the top seeds get under way.