Shane Long's injury a blow for Austria showdown
Martin O'Neill has lost a second of his first-choice players for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Austria after Shane Long was yesterday ruled out with a broken metatarsal.
The Ireland manager last Monday named the Southampton man amongst his six strikers in the expanded squad unaware about the severity of the injury sustained during the win at Middlesbrough two days earlier.
An MRI scan of the foot on Thursday confirmed the worst fears, with the 30-year-old Long likely to be sidelined for between four and six weeks.
That time-frame excludes him from the visit of Austria to Lansdowne Road on June 11 and the pair of friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay in the run-up.
O'Neill was already deprived of Ciaran Clark for the end-of-season gathering, as the Newcastle United centre-back suffered a setback in his comeback from a knee injury.
"Shane Long is unlucky with his broken metatarsal, but we will see him next season," Southampton manager Claude Puel said yesterday, confirming his absence from tomorrow's concluding Premier League fixture against Stoke City.
The Tipperary native has started four of Ireland's five qualifiers in the campaign to date, missing only the reverse fixture against the Austrians in November with a hamstring strain.
Despite scoring just once, in the away win over Moldova, Long remains O'Neill's preferred front man and his unavailability will force the manager to rethink his line-up.
He could opt to use a like-for-like replacement such as David McGoldrick or reshuffle his selection by redeploying Jon Walters into the central role to facilitate a return to the team for Wes Hoolahan.
Ireland head into the second half of the qualifiers joint-top of Group D alongside Serbia. Having dented Austria's prospects of a top-two finish by winning in Vienna to open up a four-point gap, only victory will suffice for the visitors.
Meanwhile, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has admitted that Marc Wilson could convert his loan move to West Bromwich Albion into a permanent transfer.
The Ireland defender struggled for game-time at the Cherries after moving from Stoke City early in the season and has featured three times in recent weeks under former boss Tony Pulis at the Hawthorns.
Wilson has indicated his preference to stay with the Baggies to be nearer his young family.
"Who knows?" was Howe's response when asked about Wilson's future. "It's good to see him play a few games but I've not spoken to Marc and we'll review the situation in the summer."
Another club with an Irish contingent, Burnley, have announced a pre-season friendly against Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on July 14.
Four members of the squad picked by O'Neill - Robbie Brady, Stephen Ward, Jeff Hendrick and Kevin Long - are currently part of the Clarets' first-team.