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Long blow for Ireland

Shane Long has been ruled out of Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovakia on Friday night after suffering a calf strain in training.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni named the in-form West Brom frontman in his starting line-up instead of Robbie Keane's usual partner Kevin Doyle, and spoke of the particular threat he would pose to the Slovakian defence.

However, he has been forced to change his plans and Doyle will start alongside Keane in the vital Group B clash.

Long will remain with the squad and could yet be involved in Tuesday night's clash with Russia in Moscow.

Trapattoni revealed during his pre-match press conference that part of the reason for initially selecting Long was the knee injury Doyle suffered on international duty towards the end of last season.

He and assistant boss Marco Tardelli watched the Wolves man play in last Saturday's 0-0 derby draw at Aston Villa, and while he showed no ill-effects, the Italian wanted to see for himself if he has recovered psychologically.

He said: "I wanted to see him to make sure there was no fear in his head about his injury. I don't see any fear in him at all. I have no doubt I will have the opportunity to play him maybe in the second half, and he can also be ready for Russia."

However, the call has come significantly earlier than either manager or player would have expected.

Doyle has been one of Ireland's most reliable performers under Trapattoni and has forged an excellent working relationship with Keane.

However, the manager will hope his fitness is such that he can manage two big games in the space of five days as the Irish attempt to top Group B and book their place in next summer's finals.