Dunne may be ruled out of action for rest of season


REPUBLIC OF IRELAND TEAM NEWS:Richard Dunne looks to be out of the reckoning for the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers, with Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert casting doubt yesterday on whether the Dubliner will play again this season.

There may be some consolation for Giovanni Trapattoni this weekend, however, as both Marc Wilson and Seán St Ledger are in contention to make first-team comebacks after long lay-offs.

Asked about Dunne at his press conference yesterday to preview Villa’s game at Arsenal, Lambert again suggested that the centre-back’s return is, at best, still some way off and that he may not play again before the summer.

Given that he would almost certainly have to be fully fit again within three weeks or so in order to merit inclusion in Trapattoni’s squad for the games against Sweden and Austria on March 22nd and 26th respectively, he now looks certain to miss those games.

“At the moment,” said Lambert, “Richard is still doing his rehab. Whether he plays again this season is something that we will have to see over the next few weeks. But the season is getting shorter all the time.”

Other defenders

St Ledger, who was included in Leicester’s first-team squad this week for the first time since picking up a hamstring problem in October, will be included again for the trip to Blackpool and could well feature for the Championship side, whose challenge for promotion has taken a few knocks in recent weeks.

Wilson, meanwhile, looks likely to play some part for Stoke City at Fulham, with Tony Pulis suggesting yesterday that the left-back is ready and willing after a similarly long lay-off with a broken leg.

“We are desperate to get Marc playing again and he needs to play,” said the Stoke manager. “He’s strolled through rehab, now he’s on the launch pad ready to go.”

Fulham, meanwhile, have confirmed that Damien Duff has extended his stay at Craven Cottage, with the 33-year-old Dubliner, whose contract was due to expire at the end of the current campaign, signing a new deal for next season.

“I’ve loved my time at Fulham since I joined the club more than three years ago,” the Dubliner told the club’s website, “so I’m really happy that I am going to stay here for a further year.”

Gibson back on track

Having told Trapattoni that he wasn’t fit enough to join up with the Ireland squad for the recent friendly against Poland, Everton midfielder Darron Gibson has made it clear that he is getting back to what he believes is his best at the moment.

“I think I’m getting back to where I was before I got injured,” he said. “It was a bit unfortunate getting injured and then it was a bit more serious than we first thought it was.

“Then it recurred a little bit when I came back at the end of December. It was disappointing but, fingers crossed, this time everything’s all right.”

It could well prompt another attempt by the Italian to recall Gibson, whose attitude towards playing for the national team still remains in doubt despite suggestions he has overcome his post-Euro 2012 “disappointment”.

Everton have been linked with an end of season bid for Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady by Russian daily newspaper Izvestia. McGeady’s agent, Jan Dryer, has indicated McGeady would welcome a move to England.

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