Ireland v Wales: The injuries mount..
For the last 5 months, the upcoming fixture between Republic of Ireland and Wales has been surrounded by discussion of injury. Irish eyes were primarily smiling, as it was the Welsh who were the ones sweating after Gareth Bale suffered a “traumatic dislocation of the peroneal tendons” – aka, a bust ankle. Now, five days before kick off, that narrative has grown different legs. Bale, still perhaps a few games short of full match fitness, is back, putting in shifts in the Spanish capital, and it’s Martin O Neill who now nurses all the headaches:
Shane Duffy (Out):
Duffy is playing a huge part in Brighton’s season, and has become a crowd favourite there since his arrival this summer from Blackburn. Also, no question has he also become a certainty, when fit, in the centre of Martin O Neill’s defence. Duffy played the full 90 minutes against Nottingham Forest last week, and only afterwards did Chris Hughton tell the media he had broken his metatarsal. Targeting an April return to action.
Ciaran Clark (Out):
Another O’Neill favourite, and another having a strong season in the Championship at Newcastle, Clark took a knock last week in the game against Fulham. Reports yesterday in Newcastle suggested that he would be out for a ‘lengthy spell’, however, nothing is yet to be confirmed. Update: Clark now ruled out.
Harry Arter (Out):
Possibly the biggest blow, at least tactically, will be our loss of Arter. Things sounded dubious on Saturday when Eddie Howe said he was “potentially out” for the International break, and news floating through on Sunday seems to suggest that’s much more certain now. O’Neill and Keane will be going back to their drawing board on how to counter the threat of Bale.
Wes came off after 30 minutes against Barnsley on Saturday with a strain in his thigh. Still unclear just how bad the injury is, but Alan Irvine confirmed he was still likely to travel to Dublin, with the FAI medical staff to make an assessment on Monday. Update: Ruled out.
James McCarthy (Doubtful):
With not a whole lot of game time under his belt since the signing of Morgan Schneiderlin, McCarthy’s latest hamstring injury is hampering him in Merseyside, as well as with Ireland. Not in the squad yesterday for Everton’s home win against Hull, this is another call that is likely to go down to the wire. With Arter’s injury, O’Neill will be desperate to not also lose McCarthy’s energy in midfield.
Richard Keogh (Just returned):
With Clark a doubt, and Duffy out, Richard Keogh becomes a much more important figure for O’Neill. He has been out for the last four games with a calf injury, but made his comeback yesterday in Derby’s 2-2 draw with local rivals Nottingham Forest. Conceding a 94th minute equaliser to Forest, straight from a corner, leaves us sweating on just how match-sharp he’s likely to be.
Cryus Christie (Just returned):
Unlikely to start, but an important, and versatile, option from the bench, Christie has also been suffering lately with a foot injury. He was doubtful for Derby’s game yesterday, but did make the bench.
Physically fit, but hasn’t started a Premier League game for Southampton since January, and has only been on target this season one in every seven games – making this his worst season in front of goal since he joined Reading from Cork City in 2005. No doubt a major worry for O’Neill.
Walters had surgery on a long-standing knee injury in January, and was a major doubt for this weeks game until coming through rehab quicker than anticipated. He has two games under his belt for Stoke since his return (Man City and Chelsea), and received rave reviews for his work-rate in both. Huge news for Ireland.
Robbie Brady (suspended):
Serving a one match suspension after receiving a (stupid) yellow card for kicking the ball away during our huge 0-1 away win in Vienna in November. Big price to pay.
Yet another week in the life of Roy Keane saw his words twisted by the media, having told a crowd at a Cobh Ramblers Q&A evening that he (jokingly) “didn’t listen” to medical staff, and that himself and Martin would make their own assessments on players' wellbeing when they arrived to the camp on Sunday and Monday.
At this stage, whatever the process, it’s certainly no joke.