Shane Long has been ruled out of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Austria next month.
The bad news for Martin O’Neill was confirmed after the striker underwent a scan yesterday which revealed a fracture in his foot.
Long sustained the injury in last weekend’s 2-1 victory for Southampton against Middlesbrough, an eventful game for the Irish international during which he set up a goal and missed a penalty before being substituted three minutes from the end of normal time.
After the weekend, Long was struggling with the injury to such an extent that, on Wednesday night, he wasn’t deemed fit enough to make Saints manager Claude Puel’s squad for the scoreless draw with Manchester United, and a decision was taken that he should see a specialist and undergo a scan yesterday.
The results of those investigations confirmed initial fears about the seriousness of the injury, and Long will now miss the upcoming friendlies against Uruguay and Mexico and, most importantly, the game against Austria at the Aviva Stadium on June 11.
Long, who has 17 international goals under his belt, is invariably a first-choice attacker for Ireland when available but, in his absence, the squad members in contention for a role upfront next month are currently Jon Walters, Daryl Murphy, Adam Rooney and David McGoldrick.
Alternatively, O’Neill could opt to play James McClean as a forward, the winger having already found the net three times for his country in the current World Cup campaign.
Despite claims being made for both players, there is as yet no indication that the manager is ready to call up either Cillian Sheridan — currently in fine scoring form for Polish league leaders Jagiellonia Bialystok — or Sean Maguire, the Cork City striker who has taken the League of Ireland scoring charts by storm over the last two seasons.
Long’s untimely injury also marks the end of his involvement — which has been mainly off the bench — in Southampton’s season, with the Saints set to play the final game of their Premier League campaign on Sunday when they host Stoke City at St Mary’s. Indeed the Tipp man’s future at the club appears uncertain, with recent reports suggesting that West Ham are interested in taking him to London next season.
But it’s Long’s now confirmed absence for the game against Austria which will most immediately preoccupy Irish fans, as he joins Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark and David Meyler on the missing list for the big World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
England’s Football Association has voted in favour of introducing retrospective bans for players who dive or feign injury from next season.
The new offence of ‘successful deception of a match official’ is based on a law already used in Scotland and was approved at the FA’s annual general meeting at Wembley yesterday.
Incidents will be reviewed by a panel comprised of an ex-manager, ex-player and an ex-referee, and they watch the footage independently. If they are unanimous in believing a player deceived a match official, the sanction will be a two-match ban.
This process is similar to the one already used for red-card offences which were missed at the time but caught on camera, and the cases will be fast-tracked.
In a statement, the FA said: “Although attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled is a cautionable offence for unsporting behaviour, the fact that the act of simulation has succeeded in deceiving a match official and, therefore, led to a penalty and/or dismissal, justifies a more severe penalty which would act as a deterrent.”
If a player admits to a charge of successfully deceiving an official, or is found to have done so, any yellow or red card given to an opposing player, as a result of the deceit, can be rescinded.
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