Saturday 16 December 2017

Chris Hughton confirms Shane Duffy should be available for Ireland's World Cup qualifier with Austria

Shane Duffy of of Republic of Ireland during the FIFA World Cup Group D Qualifier match between Austria and Republic of Ireland at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane Duffy of of Republic of Ireland during the FIFA World Cup Group D Qualifier match between Austria and Republic of Ireland at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Brighton and Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton has confirmed that his centre-back Shane Duffy is in line to be available for Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Austria on 11 June.

When the Derryman broke his fifth metatarsal on 4 March in a Championship defeat to Nottingham Forest, Seagulls boss Hughton predicted a minimum spell on the sidelines of six weeks.

That ruled the 25-year-old out of Ireland’s scoreless draw against Wales four weeks ago, a World Cup qualifier which fellow centre-back Ciaran Clark almost missed out on due to injury.

Hughton indicates that Duffy is on track to recover in time for the next competitive fixture and that Clark could feature for the first time in five weeks when Newcastle United face Preston North End on Monday which represents good news for Ireland chief Martin O’Neill.

"There are two weeks to go in the Championship season and I don't think Shane will be available for us,” Hughton, who has guided Brighton to Premier League promotion, told The Sunday Times. “But he won't be too far away, so any opportunities to be involved at international level are probably more likely."

It remains to be seen whether Duffy will be deemed fit enough to figure in the friendlies against Mexico on June 1, and Uruguay three days later, but the priority is to have him available for the visit of Austria.

The towering defender produced a masterclass in Vienna last year by keeping Marc Janko, Austria’s striker from FC Basel, quiet as his fellow Foylesider James McClean scored the winner.

Austria trail joint-leaders of Group D, Ireland and Serbia, by four points at the midway point of the campaign and require victory in Dublin to revive their faint hopes of usurping the top two for a crack at reaching Russia next year.

Duffy and Clark formed O’Neill’s central-defensive axis for three qualifiers in a row and only their injury-enforced absence allowed John O’Shea and Richard Keogh to reunite for the recent meeting with Wales.

While O’Neill should have all four centre-backs available for the Austria assignment, his options at right-back are slim. Captain Seamus Coleman is out with a broken leg and an alternative in that berth, David Meyler, is also on the injury list with a knee problem.

Still, encouragingly for O’Neill, Cyrus Christie has seen his first action since the Wales game, playing two games at right-back on the bounce in the past six days for Derby County.

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