O'Dea to start after rapid recovery
DARREN O'DEA has got the nod ahead of Sean St Ledger after a rapid recovery from an ankle injury which Ipswich manager Paul Jewell described as one of the nastiest he had ever seen.
The Celtic defender -- who was on loan with the Championship club this season -- will partner John O'Shea in the heart of the Irish defence in Macedonia this evening.
Irish assistant Marco Tardelli yesterday confirmed that O'Dea will line out instead of St Ledger because the latter hasn't played for three months.
O'Dea thought he would be facing a similar absence when he suffered serious bruising in what proved to be his final game for Ipswich.
"I went to see a specialist and he told me I'd be out for three months. But I dumped him out the window anyway," joked the 24-year-old.
"It's bone bruising, so it's just how quickly you heal. It could be three or four weeks, it could be three or four months.
"When I went back to Celtic a few of the lads said they had the injury and it didn't heal very quickly, so it's really how your body recovers from it. Obviously, I was lucky enough that it's healed quite well. I'm a bit sore now, but it's nothing that will really stop me."
O'Dea made his comeback against Scotland on Sunday, when he was involved for 65 minutes.
That run-out gave the ex-Home Farm youth the edge over St Ledger. "Maybe it's better that he (St Ledger) play against Italy on Tuesday," said Tardelli.
This Group B qualifier will give O'Dea a chance to showcase his ability to potential employers.
With a year left on his contract, his Celtic future is very much up in the air.
He will talk with Neil Lennon this summer, although the immediate priority is his upcoming wedding.
Tardelli also indicated yesterday that Fulham's Stephen Kelly is in line to start at right full, although Giovanni Trapattoni will make a final decision overnight.
Kelly will be favoured over Paul McShane and Kevin Foley. "We have many choices," said Tardelli. "Stephen Kelly may play, but there is also McShane. Tomorrow the boss will sit down and decide."