Thursday 23 November 2017

Kilbane's record run under threat as Given backed to face Slovaks

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

SHAY GIVEN was the first Irish veteran to enter this week with back problems, and now Kevin Kilbane has emerged as a doubt for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovakia with a similar complaint.

The Derby man, whose position in the starting XI is under serious threat from Stephen Ward, sat out training yesterday after feeling a muscular problem in training on Monday.

Kilbane has started 66 consecutive competitive international games for Ireland in a remarkable record stretching back to 1999.

Assistant manager Marco Tardelli indicated that the 34-year-old should be fine, but was non-committal on who would get the nod between the two contenders for the left-back role.

He appeared to suggest that Kilbane's experience might give him an edge for the game in Moscow next Tuesday, although it would be slightly surprising if Giovanni Trapattoni rotated a position in his back four for two such crucial encounters.

"I don't know what Giovanni will decide," said Tardelli. "We need energy and experience in our team. Maybe Kevin Kilbane has the experience to use in Russia, but it's a question for Giovanni."

Given was also nowhere to be seen in Malahide, as he is receiving additional treatment on his ailment, and Robbie Keane was absent due to the logistics of his journey home from the United States.

Tardelli is happy with the captain's move to LA Galaxy, suggesting that the relaxed pace of life in the MLS would be better for the Tallaght man at this stage of his career -- even if it means arriving late for international duty on occasion.

Overall, Tardelli is confident that the minor niggles will be cleared up for the weekend.

After a clear enough run in the World Cup tilt, Ireland have suffered with injury and suspension in the attempts to make next summer's European Championships.

Richard Dunne was suspended for June's crucial win in Macedonia, while Given missed the first meeting with the same opposition in Dublin in March.

The key figures in Ireland's rearguard are now clubmates at Aston Villa. Dunne has hailed the arrival of Given and understands why precautions are being taken this week, with the Donegal man also troubled by a groin issue.

"He's been like that for 10 days now, he's had injections and things," he said. "He did his back at the weekend too, but that's another knock on top of the other ones he's already got.

"Shay is 35 now, so he's had quite a lot of bangs and knocks. He's still -- regardless of how he feels -- great for us on a Saturday," added Dunne, with reference to Aston Villa's two clean sheets to open their league campaign.

"Obviously, losing a goalkeeper (Brad Friedel) you're hoping that you can get somebody else in and I think getting Shay in was a real bonus.

"I'm a bit surprised there weren't a few more big clubs in for him."

Irish Independent

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