GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI will be anxiously awaiting news from Birmingham today as Richard Dunne undergoes tests after the latest setback on his road to recovery.
The FAI has officially ruled the defender out of next week's friendly against Poland, but it is his long-term aspirations that are in the balance following the most recent problem to beset the 33-year-old, who was hoping to make a return to action for Aston Villa's clash with Newcastle on Tuesday night.
Dunne complained of discomfort on the morning of the match and will undergo tests today to learn of the extent of the injury.
The centre-half has not played since last summer's European Championships and has undergone three operations on groin and hip problems that have kept him out of action.
Villa manager Paul Lambert had hoped to be able to call on Dunne's leadership abilities in his side's fight against relegation in the coming weeks, but he revealed after the 2-1 defeat to the Magpies that the Tallaght native would not be available for the foreseeable future.
It puts his participation in Ireland's back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria in March in the balance and comes as a major blow to Trapattoni, who had singled Dunne out as the man to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Stockholm.
The association also confirmed that right-back Seamus Coleman is also definitely out of the Poland match, but they are not calling up replacements. However, they may be forced to do so if left-back Greg Cunningham's ankle injury rules him out of next Wednesday's clash.
The Galway native was taken off in the closing stages of Bristol City's 2-0 win over Watford on Tuesday night and manager Sean O'Driscoll said it remained to be seen how serious the injury is. Cunningham missed a chunk of the early season with an ankle ligament problem.
"Greg has a knock on his ankle and prudence dictated we take him off a few minutes before the end rather than aggravating it," O'Driscoll said. "We will know more about his condition after a day or two."
There was, however, some good news for Trapattoni as key midfielder Keith Andrews expressed his hope that he will be fit in time for the Sweden match.
The Dubliner is facing six weeks out after suffering a grade two tear of his quadriceps muscle earlier this month.
"After an examination, a couple of scans and a check-up with the physios, it turned out to be a grade two tear, which means I'm looking at about six weeks out of action," he said.
"I'm ruled out of the Poland game next week. Fortunately it is a friendly and I am hoping to be back for the double-header qualifying matches.
"I've never had a muscle injury in my whole career, so I've done quite well to get this far. It's a bit of a conundrum as to why it happened.
"We spend so long doing lots of pre-hab exercises as well as injury prevention work, so I am a little bit disappointed."
Sean St Ledger is another who is expected to be fit for the Sweden game, although Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson is urging caution about the centre-half's progress after he came through his return to action earlier this week.
"Sean is training and has had some pitch-time," said Pearson. "But he has had a long time out and now we have to make sure that we get the balance right.
"He was able to play half a game on Monday, but he has a long way to go. What I don't want is people to start putting huge expectation on him being back in the next week or so, because that is not going to happen.
"But it was good to get him in and around the players and he will feel a lot better in himself for getting some pitch-time. That is always important in a player's rehabilitation."
The 24-year-old goalkeeper will be the makeweight in a deal that takes Paul Robinson from Ewood Park to West Ham.