Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has a growing injury list ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Wales at the Aviva Stadium. Wes Hoolahan is the latest player to be ruled out of the group D clash with the Welsh which is not good news for Irish fans.The Dubliner suffered a quad injury playing for Norwich at the weekend and O’Neill confirmed the bad news today.
Hoolahan didn’t feature in the qualifiers against Serbia and Georgia but he started in the wins over Moldova and Austria. The 35 year old put the ball on a plate for Shane Long to score the opener in Moldova in October and he also had a hand in the third goal. He was the one player that made things happen that night in Chisinau but then again he almost always provides a spark in the green jersey. One month later he set up James McClean for the winner away to Austria. Wes is adored by Irish fans so it’s a big blow to lose our most creative player.
A few months ago we were looking at the prospect of facing a Wales team without their star man Gareth Bale but now it’s us who will be without a few key players. Bale returned to the Real Madrid team in mid February and has enough games under his belt to be near full fitness despite serving a ban for a red card in a La Liga game against Las Palmas.
Martin O’Neill has plenty to think about between now and Friday with regards team selection. Will he turn to a player he knows so well from Celtic, Aiden McGeady. The 30 year old has scored five goals in the Championship with Preston this season, including an injury time equaliser away to Blackburn at the weekend. Jon Walters scored a penalty for Stoke in their 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at the weekend. That was our commentary game on Premier League Live and Brian Kerr made the point during the match that Walters looked fresh following a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury. Shane Long came on after half an hour for Southampton yesterday in their 2-1 loss at Tottenham. Walters is a definite starter on Friday but the same can’t be said for Long.
O’Neill is already without Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark and Harry Arter through injury while the newly crowned FAI International Player of the Year Robbie Brady is suspended. There’s also a major doubt over James McCarthy ( hamstring) although O’Neill says the player himself is confident he will be available for Friday night.
Captain Seamus Coleman didn’t train today due to an ankle problem but he could be back on the training pitch in Abbotstown tomorrow. Jonny Hayes is in the same boat but Newcastle striker Daryl Murphy was due to have a scan on a calf problem.
The Boys in Green are top of Group D after four games with 10 points, four points ahead of Wales.