Benitez casts doubt over Clark
Martin O'Neill is sweating on the fitness of Ciaran Clark and Harry Arter after both players were all bit ruled out of their weekend club fixtures by their respective managers.
Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez revealed the knee complaint which forced Clark off in last weekend's Championship game against Fulham was diagnosed as medial ligament trouble, making him a serious doubt to be fit for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Wales.
"Clark is not available. He has a problem with his medial ligament so he won't play," explained Benitez.
O'Neill's other first-choice centre-back Shane Duffy is already unavailable due a broken metatarsal. It seems most probable at this stage the partnership of John O'Shea and Richard Keogh, axed following the campaign opener in Serbia, will be reunited to try thwart the Welsh attack spearheaded by Gareth Bale.
Derby County captain Keogh, having missed the last four games due to a calf strain, has been declared fit for today's meeting with rivals Nottingham Forest in the first game under Gary Rowett's tenure.
Arter, who impressed on his competitive debut in the win over Austria in November, faces a race against time to shake off a calf strain after Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted he was struggling to be fit for today's clash with Swansea City.
"Harry is a doubt. He felt his calf during the West Ham game but didn't come off and got through the full 90.
"It was a big effort from him, so we've just been mindful of the injury and nursed him through training this week."
While Arter is likely to report for international duty tomorrow evening and given every chance to recover in time for Friday, Clark's hopes of featuring appear remote.
Doubts persist too over the availability of midfielder James McCarthy but he, like Arter, is in line to be assessed by the FAI's medical staff over the next couple of days.