Caoimhin Kelleher and three more ruled out of Ireland squad
Kevin Long, Conor Hourihane and Callum O’Dowda all ruled out ahead of qualifiers
Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher will miss Ireland’s trip to Serbia. File photograph: Inpho
Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher is out of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Serbia, the FAI has confirmed with the 22 year-old failing to recover sufficiently from a stomach muscle injury to be made available for the start of the new qualifying campaign.
Kenny had spoken highly of the young goalkeeper in terms of his potential to deputise for Darren Randolph but he made it clear when naming his squad on Thursday that if Kelleher also missed out then Mark Travers would get his first competitive international start when the team lines out on Wednesday evening in Belgrade.
As had been expected since the pair were forced off in club games on Saturday, both Conor Hourihane and Callum O’Dowda have been ruled out too. Hourihane appeared to pick up a hamstring injury early on in Swansea’s game against Cardiff City and manager Steve Cooper made it fairly clear immediately afterwards that he did not expect the midfielder to be in a position to head away on international duty.
O’Dowda, meanwhile, appeared to suffer a recurrence of the hamstring problem that had sidelined him for more than two months a couple of minutes before the end of Bristol City’s home defeat by Rotherham United.
After coming on in the club’s previous two league games, the fact that the 25 year-old had started seemed to confirm that he would be available for the three Irish games but the midfielder now seems set for another stretch on the sidelines.
Burnley defender Kevin Long, who had come into Stephen Kenny’s team over the course of the autumn, starting both games against Wales as well as the one in November against Bulgaria, is also out although the FAI did not confirm the nature of his injury.
James McCarthy, Adam Idah and John Egan are among the other players already to have been ruled out of the window, which includes a home qualifier against Luxembourg next weekend and a friendly against Qatar in Hungary, but there was no mention of James McClean from the FAI on Sunday and it remains unclear how much of a part he will be in a position to play over the course of the coming 10 days.
The Derryman has suggested he is fit enough to feature despite a foot injury that has him sidelined at Stoke City but his club manager, Michael O’Neill, seemed far from convinced when speaking to the media over the weekend.
“James hasn’t trained yet,” he said. “For me, he’s not fit. I don’t think he’s fit enough to be part of that squad. It’s up to Ireland to assess him, they have the right to do that - that’s the rules of international football - but he has not trained with us.
“He’s three weeks into the rehabilitation process with the injury and I’m surprised that Ireland have called him up. If we had a game on Wednesday night, like Ireland have, James wouldn’t be fit for that game.”
In place of the players who have withdrawn, West Ham midfielder Conor Coventry has been promoted from the under-21s for his first senior squad while Blackburn Rovers defender Darragh Lenihan will also be on the plane to Belgrade on Monday after the squad trains together in Manchester.
Updated squad: Travers (Bournemouth), Bazunu (Rochdale), O'Hara (Burton Albion); Coleman (Everton), Doherty (Tottenham), Duffy (Celtic), Stevens (Sheffield United), Clark (Newcastle United), O'Shea (West Brom), Manning (Swansea City), Christie (Nottingham Forest), Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Browne (Preston), Hendrick (Newcastle United), Molumby (Preston), Knight (Derby County), Cullen (Anderlecht), Coventry (West Ham United), Brady (Burnley), McClean (Stoke City), Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers), Curtis (Portsmouth), Robinson (West Brom), Connolly (Brighton), Long (Bournemouth), Collins (Luton Town), Parrott (Ipswich Town).