IRELAND'S centre-half crisis has intensified after it emerged that Sean St Ledger has suffered another setback in his attempts to shake off a persistent hamstring problem.
Giovanni Trapattoni's first-choice centre-half has been absent since the beginning of October with an injury that has proved far more complicated than originally anticipated.
There were positive signs when he visited German specialist Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt last month and the verdict was that surgery wasn't required.
However, St Ledger will have to visit Müller-Wohlfahrt again after the latest development, with the Leicester medical staff recommending it due to their concerns this week.
They believe he will be out for a minimum of eight weeks, which means he is a serious doubt for the March World Cup qualifiers with Sweden and Austria. Even if he is fit, the Birmingham man will have very little football under his belt for such a crucial examination.
His centre-half partner for Ireland, Richard Dunne is yet to play a game this season and while he has made some progress in his battle to shake off a groin problem, the Dubliner needs games to develop sharpness, and Aston Villa's pursuit of Joleon Lescott could spell trouble.
Villa would be open to offers for Dunne, who has six months remaining on his contract, with New York Red Bulls and Nottingham Forest interested, but he would have to prove his fitness before anything could develop.
O'Shea is also on the sidelines with a hamstring problem, but there are no indications that he faces a long-term stint on the treatment table. But he has been struck down by hamstring problems before, so the Irish boss will be hoping that he does not return to action until he is ready.
O'Dea's MLS adventure resumes in March, with Aston Villa man Ciaran Clark perhaps best placed to capitalise from the injury woes.
Trapattoni also has to resolve the issue of who will keep goal. He has to speak with Shay Given to see if a return to the fold is a serious option. Given was selected by Aston Villa for the weekend FA Cup win over Ipswich, but Keiren Westwood was again confined to the bench for Sunderland's draw at Bolton.
On the plus side, it means he is not cup-tied, and Hull are keen to have him on loan to join permanent acquisition David Meyler.
Meanwhile, Steve Bruce is also close to signing Robbie Brady on a full-time basis with reports that the club have agreed a fee with Manchester United. The Dubliner will move for a deal worth in excess of £2m, if he can agree personal terms with the club.