Mick McCarthy is set to be without his first choice central defensive partnership for the vital European Championship games next month in Georgia and Tbilisi with both Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh having suffered injury setbacks over the past 24 hours.
Keogh will miss the rest of the season after having been hurt in a late night road accident when a car belonging to his Derby County teammate, in which he was a backseat passenger, collided with a lamppost after a club approved squad night out.
The Ireland defender, who has partnered Duffy in every qualifying game so far in this campaign, is said to have sustained both a fractured wrist and knee injury in the incident which resulted in two other Derby players, Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett being charged with drink-driving.
“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,” said the club in a statement issued on Thursday.
“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, but over and above any punishment they receive we will be expecting them to become involved with the excellent work the Community Trust does helping the communities we serve.”
Duffy limped out of Brighton’s League Cup defeat to Aston Villa with a calf injury and left the ground with his leg heavily strapped. The Derryman was due to have a scan to assess the scale of the problem on Thursday morning but the early sense seemed to be that he would miss both Ireland games with manager Graham Potter observing that it was likely to be a matter of “weeks rather than days”.
If that proves to be the case, and he does miss out, it will compound an already difficult situation for McCarthy who had settled on the pair as his central defensive partnership although it would open the door to Sheffield United’s John Egan and Kevin Long of Burnley who both started in the recent friendly win over Bulgaria.
McCarthy already knew he would have to make a change at left back with first choice, Enda Stevens, suspended for the game in Tbilisi after being booked in the 1-1 draw with Switzerland, his third yellow card of the campaign.