Captain's injury adds to Irish woe

 

Andy Townsend, the Republic of Ireland captain, was yesterday said to be uncertain to play in next Saturday's World Cup qualifying game against Romania at Lansdowne Road. Townsend is to have his knee X-rayed today after making a premature departure from Middlesbrough's game against Sheffield United yesterday and Mick McCarthy acknowledges that the position is worrying.

"It may be that he has nicked his cartilage, but at this point that is pure speculation," he said. "He had his knee treated immediately after the game, but if remains to be seen how extensively he has damaged himself."

If his cartilage is torn, it may well put at risk his participation in the first leg of the World Cup play off on October 29th, by far the most important date of the year for the Ireland team.

With Roy Keane, his established partner in central midfield, already ruled out of that game, the loss of the team captain would be interpreted as a significant setback to McCarthy's hopes of leading his squad to the World Cup finals in France next summer.

The significance of the setback for the Romanian game is that it may deprive the manager of the services of a player who is not currently on a yellow card. And with no fewer than 14 members of the squad falling into that category, his loss could be significant.

Nor is that the only cloud on McCarthy's horizon for he said yesterday that there are doubts about midfielder Gareth Farrelly. Farrelly didn't play for Everton against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and Howard Kendall has since contacted the Irish manager to say that he is worried about the player's fitness.

McCarthy said that he plans to speak with Farrelly today when he hopes to obtain more detailed information about the injury.

The injury could scarcely have come at a more inopportune time for Farrelly, the 21-year-old Dubliner who left Aston Villa for Everton during the close season for the purpose of getting the regular first team football needed to win his place in the national team.

Michael Evans, one of three newcomers in the squad for the Romanian fixture, was withdrawn in the second half of Southampton's game against West Ham at the Dell on Saturday, but it is understood that he is fit to travel to Dublin tomorrow.

Lee Carsley, another of the uncapped players summoned by McCarthy, will be one of the last to arrive in Dublin. He has been given permission to remain behind in England and help Derby County in this evening's Premiership meeting with Leicester.