O'Shea setback puts dampener on vital Irish weekend
The Ireland squad will convene in Abbotstown today after a weekend where a number of Martin O'Neill's key squad members came through their club duties in one piece.
But O'Neill's main worry as preparations for the Euro 2016 decider with Bosnia really kick into gear will be the condition of two players who have to get the all-clear from their employers before travelling.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce was the bearer of bad news on Saturday after he revealed that John O'Shea had suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury in training.
It meant that he missed his scheduled comeback in the Black Cats' encounter with Sunderland, and Allardyce was immediately pessimistic about the player's prospects of figuring in next Monday's second leg in Dublin; the veteran is banned for round one.
"He hasn't been able to get fit for us in two weeks so there's no chance he will be fit for Ireland in 10 days which is a blow for us and a blow for them," he said.
The 34-year-old has not given up hope, though, and will be assessed by Sunderland staff today. His prospects of being ready for next Monday are slim, though.
There is also believed to be major concern about the well-being of Shane Long, whose ankle ligament injury has proved more problematic than initial expectations. Southampton medics will check on his progress before giving the striker the green light to travel to Ireland and he needs to make a significant recovery.
Fringe squad members Paul McShane, Alan Judge and Rob Elliot have added to the 'doubtful' list and will be monitored by their clubs too. Elliot was exceptional for Newcastle at the weekend and they are worried about losing him with Tim Krul on the sidelines. O'Neill has named four 'keepers in his trimmed-down 30-man panel with Darren Randolph, David Forde and Keiren Westwood on the list. Randolph is in pole position to replace Shay Given.
There was mixed news for O'Neill in terms of alternatives to O'Shea as Marc Wilson didn't get a look in during Stoke's significant win over Chelsea.
However, Ciaran Clark is back in favour at Aston Villa and shone in their game against Manchester City. He missed last month's double header through injury with Richard Keogh getting the nod, but he will now strongly come into contention.
Elsewhere, Daryl Murphy picked the right window to return to form by scoring a hat-trick for Ipswich in their destruction of Rotherham on Saturday.
Murphy, the top scorer in last season's Championship, had failed to hit the target this season and badly needed the boost in confidence. It was the first hat-trick of the 32-year-old Waterford native's career.
Jon Walters is suspended for Zenica, but will land in good spirits after finally resolving his future at Stoke and agreeing a new two-and-a-half-year contract.
Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady impressed for Norwich as they did enough to beat Swansea, while Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy contributed to Everton's draw at Swansea. But Aiden McGeady didn't make the match day squad again and reports for duty having not featured for the Toffees since August. Darron Gibson was left on the bench for 90 minutes.
Harry Arter featured for Bournemouth against Newcastle and gets the nod from O'Neill ahead of his colleague Eunan O'Kane. In addition to the injured Given and David McGoldrick, the other players to be chopped from the provisional 39-man panel are Simon Cox, Paul Green, Anthony Pilkington, Anthony Stokes, Adam Rooney and Greg Cunningham.
Ireland Squad v Bosnia: Randolph (West Ham), Forde (Millwall), Westwood (Sheff Wed), Elliot (Newcastle); Coleman (Everton), Wilson (Stoke), O'Shea (Sunderland), Keogh (Derby), Christie (Derby), Pearce (Derby), Duffy (Blackburn), Clark (Aston Villa), McShane (Reading), Ward (Burnley), Brady (Norwich); McCarthy (Everton), Hendrick (Derby), Gibson (Everton), Arter (Bournemouth), Whelan (Stoke), McGeady (Everton), McClean (West Brom), Judge (Brentford), Meyler (Hull), Hoolahan (Norwich); Walters (Stoke), Keane (LA Galaxy), Murphy (Ipswich), Doyle (Colorado Rapids), Long (Southampton).