O'Shea blow

United ace ruled out for Ireland match

Aidan Fitzmaurice

ALEX FERGUSON delivered a hammer blow to Ireland's Euro 2012 hopes today when he confirmed that John O'Shea will be out of action for five weeks - ruling the defender out of Ireland's qualifier at home to Macedonia on Saturday week.

O'Shea was taken off in the first half of United's 2-1 Champions League win over Marseille on Tuesday night with a hamstring injury.

Giovanni Trapattoni had been holding out a faint hope that his key defender would be fit for the visit of Macedonia on March 26, especially as his defence is already weakened by the absence of ’keeper Shay Given and a major doubt over Richard Dunne's fitness.

O'Shea will now miss the Group B qualifier against Macedonia as well as the friendly against Uruguay, while his club will be without O'Shea's services for a crucial part of the season.

“We're having a bad spell. Only a few weeks ago we had every defender fit,” said Ferguson today after confirming O'Shea's five-week lay-off.