Derby County defender Richard Keogh may well have played his last game for Ireland after sustaining a serious knee injury in a car crash that his club say will keep out of action for the rest of this season.
The 33 year-old is definitely out of next month's European Championship qualifiers in Georgia and Switzerland, a significant blow to Mick McCarthy, who was already to be without suspended left back Enda Stevens for the first of the games and looks likely to be without Keogh's central defensive partner Shane Duffy for both.
But the player himself looks likely to be the far great loser overall with things around the senior squad set to have moved on greatly by the time Keogh is available again. Stephen Kenny is scheduled to succeed McCarthy at the end of next summer and though Keogh is sure, at least, of having a club to come back to as he is contracted at Derby until the summer of 2021, he would do very well to persuade a new international manager that he should be a part of the team’s future as a 34-year-old coming back from a long term lay off.
The Ireland defender is said to have sustained both a fractured wrist and knee injury in the incident which saw Tom Lawrence crash his car into a lamppost. Lawrence, as well as teammate Mason Bennett, were later charged with drink-driving.
The pity of it all is that Keogh, who is to be sanctioned by his club for his part in the late night incident, had clearly established himself as a first choice under McCarthy who had used him in every qualifying game of the current campaign and looked set to keep him in the team.
Five of his 26 international caps had come this year and he was firmly on course to add perhaps another four in the coming months, something that would have marked this out as comfortably his best year in an Ireland jersey. Then, if things go well for the team, he could have been heading for a European Championships next summer.
Instead he faces the prospect of trying to fight his way back to fitness at a club that made no secret of its annoyance at what happened late on Wednesday night.
“The players were out as part of a scheduled team-building dinner with staff and while the majority of them acted responsibly and left at around 8pm and were not involved, a small group, including the team captain Richard Keogh, continued drinking into the night,” Derby said in a statement. “They should have known when to stop and also ignored the opportunity to be driven home using cars laid on by the club, and chose to stay out.
“As a result of an alcohol-related incident, Richard Keogh has sustained a serious knee injury that will prevent him from playing until the end of the season.
“The players involved in the incident on Tuesday evening will be subject to a rigorous internal investigation under the club’s code of conduct and disciplinary procedures.”
It is foolish stuff for which Keogh seems set to pay a pretty high price.
Duffy, meanwhile, also seems set to miss the Ireland games after sustaining a calf injury in Brighton’s defeat by Aston Villa in the League Cup. The Derryman was due to have a scan on Thursday and while there was no confirmation regarding the seriousness of the problem, the early sense was that he would be sidelined through the international break with club manager Graham Potter suggesting that the layoff would be a matter of “weeks rather than days”.
McCarthy is due to name his squad on Tuesday for Ireland’s two qualifiers next month.