Kilbane ruled out of final Euro qualifiers
KEVIN KILBANE is out of Ireland's concluding Euro 2012 qualifiers against Andorra and Armenia, leaving Stephen Ward poised to continue his international education at left-back.
Ward took his chance against Slovakia and Russia last month when Kilbane was sidelined with a back problem, thus bringing his 12-year run of consecutive competitive appearances to a close.
The veteran has failed to fully recover from that problem and has been feeling additional pain in his hamstrings.
The rest of the party began to assemble in Dublin last night and, provided there are no delayed reactions to weekend encounters, Kilbane looks like being the only significant absentee from Giovanni Trapattoni's regular selection.
With Kevin Foley's unavailability confirmed last week, the Italian is missing two defenders, but, as of last night, there were no plans to call up a replacement.
Stoke's Marc Wilson would be an option, yet he was forced off early in his side's Premier League defeat to Swansea yesterday.
There was better news for Trapattoni on the Robbie Keane front, however, with the Irish skipper in action for LA Galaxy in their weekend win over Real Salt Lake.
Keane is due in Dublin today after shelving plans to make a mad dash following Galaxy's MLS game against New York Red Bulls tomorrow.
Andorra is first up on Friday, a night when Trapattoni will also be praying for a Slovakian win over Russia.
In that event, if Ireland win in Andorra, they would go into the final game with Armenia at the Aviva Stadium knowing that three points would secure automatic qualification.
There will be an enforced change to his team for the Andorra game, with the hero of Moscow, Richard Dunne, out through suspension.
Dunne will still travel with the team and play a full part in the build-up this week as the management want to work on a plan that will encompass the two games.
The defender is auctioning his bloodied shirt from Russia to raise funds for Barretstown and the National Children's Hospital in Tallaght. It costs €5 to enter, and is being run through the FAI's Facebook page.
Sean St Ledger, who missed the game in Moscow after picking up two yellow cards, is likely to return to the side. He could partner Darren O'Dea in the heart of the defence, although another option would be to draft John O'Shea inside.
A major decision for Trapattoni will be in the forward department, with Shane Long vying with his good pal Kevin Doyle for a starting place.
Long got the nod ahead of Doyle last month only for injury to intervene. He scored again at the weekend in West Brom's draw at Sunderland, and Trapattoni will have a big call to make.
Long's club manager, Roy Hodgson, believes the Tipp man is on a serious upward curve.
"We are talking about a young lad who started very late and is still to some extent learning the game," said Hodgson. "He had a flying start with a goal against Manchester United and on Saturday his all-round play was very good, his target play was good, and he was a threat in front and behind defenders.
"He rarely gave the ball away and his workrate is outstanding. The figures quoted about his transfer (a reported £7m) are wrong. He might be the bargain of the year."
•England will head into their Euro 2012 showdown with Montenegro -- they need a draw to secure qualification -- without two of their most experienced players after Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard were both left out of Fabio Capello's squad.
Gerrard had already said he did not believe he was fit enough to be involved after only just recovering from a groin injury, but Ferdinand was expected to be included after shaking off a hamstring strain.
Jermain Defoe and Joleon Lescott have lost their places, with Bobby Zamora and Scott Carson recalled.