O'Shea injury gives Trap birthday blues allegiance
Giovanni Trapattoni woke on his 72nd birthday yesterday to the bad news he must have been fearing - John O'Shea is definitely out of Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia next Saturday.
The loss of O'Shea is a shattering blow, given that Richard Dunne's participation remains in doubt.
With Shay Given already ruled out, the potential absence of the three most accomplished members of Trapattoni's rearguard leaves Ireland looking distinctly vulnerable ahead of the Aviva Stadium showdown.
It was almost inevitable that O'Shea would be sidelined after he limped out of Manchester United's Champions League tie with Marseille on Tuesday with a hamstring problem.
As expected, the recovery time will exceed the 10-day time-frame he had in order to line out for his country.
Indeed, United manager Alex Ferguson yesterday speculated that the Waterford native could be out for more than a month, depending on how the recovery process goes.
The news places added importance on the health of Dunne, who has spent the last couple of days in disciplinary hearings at Aston Villa as the fall-out continued from his behaviour at a supposed team-bonding session.
Trapattoni will be hoping that the defender shakes off the associated attention and large fine, and concentrates on recovering from the shoulder problem that has left him on the sidelines.
Possible replacements for O'Shea at right-back are Seamus Coleman, Marc Wilson, Kevin Foley and Stephen Kelly.
The versatile Ciaran Clark or Keith Andrews could also fill in there, but if Dunne is ruled out the likelihood is that Clark will be required in the centre of defence.
That would mean certain involvement for Kevin Kilbane, with Sean St Ledger taking on the role of senior figure at the heart of the back four, a huge promotion for a player currently lining out for the worst club in the Championship.
The right-back choice is a tough one for the Italian.
He would like to play Coleman in the position long-term, but the Donegal man has spent the whole of this campaign engaged on the right wing with Everton.
Foley is a regular at Wolves, yet Trapattoni appears to prefer Kelly, who is on the periphery at Fulham and has struggled with his fitness this season.
Wilson, a versatile performer, could sneak up on the rails after deputising at right-back for Stoke in recent weeks.
He made his Irish debut as a sub against Wales at the Aviva last month in a game the home side won 3-0.