Options dwindle as McCarthy pulls out


Soccer: Giovanni Trapattoni’s plans to experiment with personnel in his final friendly before the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Slovakia and Russia have suffered further setbacks today with the news that James McCarthy and Damien Delaney have been ruled out of the game against Croatia.

The Italian has been left with a 21-man squad for the game at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday and two of them – Stoke City pair Marc Wilson and Jon Walters – are to be assessed by the FAI medical staff this evening.

Earlier today, Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark was called in to replace Delaney, who suffered an ankle injury playing for Ipswich Town on Saturday, while Keith Fahey joined Keith Andrews on the sidelines too after picking up an injury in Birmingham’s first game of the season against Derby County yesterday.

The central midfield options were further depleted this evening when McCarthy picked up an injury in Wigan’s pre-season friendly win over Villareal this afternoon.

Seamus Coleman, Kevin Kilbane, John O’Shea, Kevin Foley Aiden McGeady, Liam Lawrence and Paul McShane are also out of the game. The good news for Coleman is that the Donegalman’s ankle is not broken after he was carried off against Villareal on Friday night, thanks to a rather reckless Carlos Marchena challenge.

All in all, it leaves Trapattoni with very little room for manoeuvre ahead of Wednesday, with only two central midfielders – Glenn Whelan and Darron Gibson - definitely at his disposal as of today, though Wilson could yet add to his options in this department.

Speaking before the withdrawal of McCarthy, Trapattoni's assistant Marco Tardelli gave a downbeat assessment of the situation.

"We have many problems against a team that is very strong," he admitted. "The match will be very tough. Ciaran Clark is in the squad but we have problems in midfield where we have just three players - McCarthy, Whelan and Gibson."

"We will try to win the match. It's very important for us because in September we have two very important games for the European Championship. I don't know why all the Irish players get injured," he joked.

Trapattoni is expected to drop captain Robbie Keane for the game, in order to take a look at Reading’s Shane Long and West Brom’s Simon Cox up front together.

“I’ll use the match to get Cox and Long playing together and see the dynamic between them,” he said yesterday. “I’d like to use him [Keane] for 35 minutes. Friendlies are really about building belief, experience and giving players a test against international opposition – when you come to a qualifier, you want certainties.”

The decision would be an unusual one for Trapattoni, who rarely leaves his skipper out if fit, and suggests he may have doubts about the Spurs striker ahead of the crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers next month.

Rep of Ireland squad (v Croatia)

Goalkeeper: Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, David Forde

Defenders: Stephen Kelly, Stephen Ward, Richard Dunne, Ciaran Clark, Sean St. Ledger, Darren O’Dea

Midfielders: Glenn Whelan, Darron Gibson, Andy Keogh, Damien Duff, Stephen Hunt, Marc Wilson*, Keith Treacy

Forwards: Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Jon Walters*, Shane Long, Simon Cox