Wednesday 21 February 2018

O'Shea injury leaves Ireland defence on verge of crisis

Republic of Ireland's John O'Shea. Photo: PA
Republic of Ireland's John O'Shea. Photo: PA
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

John O'Shea is a doubt for Ireland's World Cup qualifier with Serbia on this day fortnight after damaging his groin in Sunderland's derby defeat to Middlesbrough.

The Black Cats skipper has opted against international retirement after being asked to stay on by Martin O'Neill but he picked up an untimely injury which led to him limping off before half-time.

Manager David Moyes said afterwards that the veteran had 'popped his groin' and would now be assessed with a view to finding out the seriousness of the setback.

Ireland are already without Shane Duffy for the opener in Belgrade due to suspension, so a problem for O'Shea would open the door for Ciaran Clark and Richard Keogh to man the centre of defence.

Clark moved to Newcastle in the summer and was part of the side which won 1-0 at Bristol City on Saturday, while Keogh played for Derby in their scoreless draw with Aston Villa.

Right-back Seamus Coleman is also a major doubt.

O'Neill is expected to name his squad this week, with the process partially delayed by a holiday and also the need to finalise the details of the preceding friendly with Oman on Wednesday, August 31, which could end up functioning as Robbie Keane's international swansong.


He does have other defensive options, with Paul McShane on target for Reading over the weekend and John Egan a candidate after his summer move to Championship outfit Brentford.

Another candidate is Marc Wilson, who needs games following his switch to Bournemouth.

It was a tough weekend for some of O'Neill's options. Harry Arter was sent off in Bournemouth's reverse at West Ham for picking up two bookings.

The real concern in midfield is James McCarthy, though, with the Everton man withdrawn before half-time in the win at West Brom.

He was visibly unhappy at the move which came with Everton trailing. Ronald Koeman later confirmed that it was a tactical switch to facilitate the introduction of Romelu Lukaku as a target man.

McCarthy has started the campaign in an unfamiliar wide role, but Koeman insisted during the week that the Glaswegian was still part of his plans, amid speculation that a host of clubs are monitoring his situation.

It was a better Saturday for Stephen Ward, who shone for Burnley in their surprise win over Liverpool. The Dubliner regained his place at left-back during the Euros.

In the Championship, Wolves forward Joe Mason furthered his case for promotion into O'Neill's plans by hitting the target in a 3-1 success at Birmingham.

Mason joined Wolves from Cardiff for £3m earlier in the year and it's taken him a while to get into his stride, but he has scored on successive weekends.

Meanwhile, Dundalk will have to cope without the services of Ciaran Kilduff in tomorrow's Champions League tie with Legia Warsaw.

Stephen Kenny's team arrived in Poland yesterday with only one senior striker - top scorer Dave McMillan - after Kilduff shipped a heavy knock in training on Saturday.

Irish Independent

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