Darron Gibson ruled out of Poland qualifier while Ward in race to prove fitness
Darron Gibson has been forced to withdraw from the Ireland squad for theEuro 2016 Group D qualifier against Poland at Aviva Stadium, while Stephen Ward is in a battle to feature.
Roy Keane, Ireland’s assistant manager, confirmed that both squad members once again sat out training’s session at the Dublin 4 venue with ankle and groin problems respectively.
Although James McClean was also sidelined for the session, he at least believes his availability is assured, telling reporters afterwards that’s he’s “100 per cent fit” for the showdown.
Gibson was sent back to his club to continue rehabilitation on a persistent groin problem.
Keane said: “Gibbo didn’t train, and McClean and Wardy are obviously doubtful, but James is more hopeful than the others for the weekend and we have a few days to play with. So it’s not the end of the world.”
Should, as expected, Ward fail to recover in time, then the direct beneficiary to fill the left-back berth would seem to be either Robbie Brady, Cyrus Christie or Ciaran Clark.
Alternatively, Marc Wilson could be shifted wide from his customary central defensive berth to occupy a role he’s familiar with at Stoke City, thereby allowing for Richard Keogh to make his second successive start in qualification.
O’Neill, however, is loathe to split the axis harnessed by Wilson and O’Shea, one he’s historically felt most comfortable with. Any move carrying the potential of increasing the threat posed by Robert Lewandowski won’t be risked.
McClean, meanwhile, is set to continue being one of O’Neill’s mainstays after a scan of his ankle yesterday didn’t show up damage of major concern.
"I went for the scan and it came back positive and I'm happy with that,” said the Foylesider. “It's just putting plenty of ice on and it should be okay.
“I didn't remember getting a kick or going over on it, and obviously that's the worrying part. I did my other ankle in pre-season, so that was kind of on my mind.
"I spoke to the medical staff and we agreed that it was best just to give it that extra 24, 48 hours extra rest. The game is not until Sunday."