O'Shea a doubt for Euros as Trap sweats on scan results
JOHN O'SHEA has emerged as a doubt for Euro 2012 after an old calf problem flared up in Sunderland's clash with Manchester United.
Giovanni Trapattoni will be praying for good news from the scan that the Waterford man needs to assess the extent of the problem. O'Shea walked off after 43 minutes, and his boss Martin O'Neill later admitted that it was a precaution which had next month in Poland in mind.
And the Sunderland boss said he feared for the player as he left the pitch. "As he came off, my thought was there might be a concern with him," said O'Neill. "Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but it might be a concern."
O'Shea missed a couple of games in March with a calf problem, but he returned to full action quickly. So this is worrying news for the 31-year-old, who has never played in a major tournament after missing out in 2002.
Paul McShane would likely capitalise if O'Shea's issue was serious enough to rule him out. Trapattoni placed the Hull defender on standby last week.
The Italian does have plenty of options at right-back, with Stephen Kelly and Kevin Foley available to cover. Yet it would be a disaster to lose a player of O'Shea's experience.
On a brighter note, Darron Gibson made a timely return for Everton yesterday, allaying fears that he could miss the finals with a knee problem.
The Derry man has been on the sidelines in recent weeks but lasted the 90 minutes of his team's comfortable victory over Newcastle.
Gibson missed Ireland's friendly draw with the Czech Republic through injury and appeared to have slipped down the pecking order towards the tail end of the qualification campaign. But that was before his move to Goodison Park, where he has impressed.
Elsewhere on a busy afternoon for Irish players, Stephen Hunt started his second game in succession after a stop-start year at relegated Wolves. He was withdrawn in the 58th minute for tactical reasons and replaced by Limerick youngster Anthony Forde.
Hunt will be keen to build up his match sharpness in Ireland's warm-up friendlies with Bosnia and Hungary, particularly with James McClean emerging as competition in the wide department behind first-choice duo Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady.
Indeed, McClean impressed again in the showdown with United, causing plenty of problems in the second half.
Hunt's Wolves team-mate Stephen Ward is guaranteed of his place at left-back. He required treatment during the game but continued on to achieve his aim of playing every minute of every game for his club this season.
Jonathan Walters finished his campaign on a high, scoring the brace for Stoke that relegated one of his former clubs, Bolton.
It was the striker's 52nd club appearance of a busy season that started back in July. He scored 11 goals in all competitions for his employers, but yesterday's pair were his first Premier League goals of 2012.
Shane Long bagged his eighth goal of the campaign in West Brom's dramatic defeat to Arsenal, while Trapattoni will have been happy to see Richard Dunne come through Aston Villa's reverse at Norwich.
There was reason to celebrate for McGeady in Russia, as the winger laid on both goals as Spartak Moscow beat Lokomotiv Moscow 2-0 and booked their place in the Champions League.
Lokomotiv had earlier confirmed that Croatia coach Slaven Bilic -- whose charges Ireland meet in the opening match of Euro 2012 -- has agreed to take over as manager after the tournament in a deal worth €12m over four seasons.
Meanwhile, Manchester City's Mario Balotelli had more reasons to be cheerful last night when he followed his Premier League win by being included in Cesare Prandelli's 32-man provisional squad for the European Championships.
Antonio di Natale was also included after a stellar season for Udinese, but there was no room for Inter's Giampaolo Pazzini or Juventus's Alessandro Matri. Plenty for Trapattoni to digest, but it is O'Shea who will dominate his thoughts today.
ITALY provisional squad -- Goalkeepers: Buffon (Juventus), De Sanctis (Napoli), Sirigu (Paris St Germain), Viviano (Palermo). Defenders: Abate (Milan), Astori (Cagliari), Balzaretti (Palermo), Barzagli (Juventus), Bocchetti (Rubin Kazan), Bonucci (Juventus), Chiellini (Juventus), Criscito (Zenit St Petersburg), Maggio (Napoli), Ogbonna (Torino), Ranocchia (Inter). Midfielders: Cigarini (Atalanta), De Rossi (Roma), Diamanti (Bologna),Giaccherini (Juventus), Marchisio (Juventus), Montolivo (Fiorentina), Thiago Motta (Paris St Germain), Nocerino (Milan), Pirlo (Juventus),Schelotto (Atalanta), Verratti (Pescara). Strikers: Balotelli (Manchester City), Borini (Roma), Cassano (Milan), Destro (Siena), Di Natale (Udinese), Giovinco (Parma).