Thursday 22 February 2018

Flurry of sick notes tests resources for Croatia clash

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

AFTER a lack of communication from certain players in May, there's been a different problem for the Irish management ahead of Wednesday's friendly with Croatia.

This time, they are receiving too many messages; bringing confirmation that another player is out of the Aviva Stadium encounter. James McCarthy -- who had been in touch to say he was coming to Dublin -- was the latest casualty.

He went off injured in Wigan's friendly win over Villarreal yesterday, a few hours after Marco Tardelli bemoaned the fact that the Glaswegian was one of just three central midfielders available.

From a provisional 32-man squad, just 21 names remain in contention and there are asterisks attached. Jonathan Walters will report to have a calf problem assessed while Kevin Doyle is also a major doubt.

Following a first raft of confirmed withdrawals last week, Damien Delaney (ankle), Keith Fahey (hip) Seamus Coleman (ankle) and Keith Andrews (groin) were also lost over the weekend. Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark -- an omission from the final squad -- has been called back in due to Delaney's unavailability.

Marc Wilson who, like McCarthy, was in trouble with Trapattoni in May, was initially ruled out before it emerged last night that he was coming to Dublin to have his ankle looked at. Wilson and Clark have both deputised at central midfield for their clubs, and may now be viewed as cover options for Glenn Whelan and Darron Gibson.

Weekend reports suggested that Robbie Keane would start on the bench, but Tardelli indicated yesterday that the Irish skipper may be involved for one half. Tardelli hopes that the out-of-favour Spurs forward will find new employment before the end of this month.

"We have to make do with what we have," he said. "I don't know why so many Irish players are injured. We know the players aren't very fit, but we will try."

The immediate focus is a positive result to set up next month's crunch Euro Championship showdowns with Slovakia and Russia.

Tardelli also offered his take on the draw for the World Cup 2014 qualifiers; although the outcome of September's games could decide if the Italian regime will continue.

"I think Germany is the first team, but if we have the same motivation that we had against Italy, or Macedonia, I think everything is possible for us. It's possible to go to Brazil."

Ireland (squad) -- Given, Westwood, Forde; Kelly, Dunne, O'Dea, St Ledger, Clark, Ward, Whelan, Gibson, Wilson [doubtful], Duff, Keogh, Treacy, Hunt; Keane, Doyle, Long, Cox, Walters (doubtful).

Irish Independent

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