O'Shea injury blow forces Ireland into reshuffle
IRELAND landed in Moscow last night without John O'Shea after the Sunderland defender was ruled out of the crunch Euro 2012 showdown with a calf and hip strain.
The 30-year-old was present at training in Malahide yesterday morning, but left early and, while assistant Marco Tardelli expressed confidence the right-back would be fit, the bad news subsequently filtered through.
With Sean St Ledger suspended, Giovanni Trapattoni will have to make two changes to his back four. Darren O'Dea will slot in alongside Richard Dunne, while Kevin Foley and Stephen Kelly will battle it out to replace O'Shea.
It will, thus, be some achievement if the visitors can extend their record-breaking run of clean sheets to a seventh game.
On the plus side, there was better news about Shay Given, who initially seemed a greater concern, with a scan revealing that he didn't exacerbate his back complaint in the scoreless draw with Slovakia.
Given felt pain and missed training, but was passed fit to make the journey after the FAI's medical team took every precaution.
Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane both left early along with O'Shea, yet they were simply being rested and both made the journey to the Russian capital.
With key figures carrying aches and pains, Trapattoni opted against training on an artificial surface before making the journey. A pitch was laid at Gannon Park, but the Irish camp will wait until this evening's run-out at the match venue, the Luzhniki Stadium.
Striker Simon Cox, who is challenging Kevin Doyle for a place, admitted that the pitch could be a huge factor, although he may not want management to know that he struggled on a similar surface in pre-season with West Brom.
"The ball rolls differently, the bounce is different, the way you strike the ball is different. With West Brom, some adapted better than others. I had an absolute nightmare," he said.
Nevertheless, Tardelli was keen to play down the impact of the surface, stressing that Macedonia could have taken something from their loss to Russia there on Friday.
The visitors had a strong penalty claim turned down before Russia broke to grab the game's only goal.
Speaking on Saturday, Trapattoni diplomatically responded to a question about the pressure the officials will be under in Moscow. A customary reference to Thierry Henry indicated a degree of trepidation.