Long facing fitness race for Euro play-off

Shane Long looks to be in a race against time to be fit for Ireland’s European Championship play-off next month.

Long facing fitness race for Euro play-off

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman yesterday suggested that the ankle injury which forced the striker out of the 2-1 defeat to Poland in Warsaw last Sunday could keep him sidelined for from two to four weeks, the more pessimistic end of that prognosis meaning he’d be out of action right up to the first leg of the play-off.

Confirming that he won’t be available for this weekend’s game against Leicester, the Saints boss said: “The Shane injury is a disappointment. It’s an ankle ligament injury and he will be out for two to four weeks.”

The comments will be a worry for Martin O’Neill, after an initial scan appeared to have revealed nothing worse than what was described as “soft tissue” damage but, with Long having since seen a radiologist at Southampton, the injury may be more acute than was first thought.

On the other hand, the more optimistic end of Koeman’s prognosis would give Long enough time to put himself firmly back in the frame for the play-off so, depending on how quick a healer the player is, there are still good grounds for hoping he will be available.

The encouraging news for Ireland is that Wes Hoolahan trained yesterday with Norwich after a heel injury,coupled with the effects of general wear and tear, had curtailed his involvement in the game against Poland.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s game against Newcastle, Canaries boss Alex Neil said: “What happened was in the game against Leicester, when he came off in the first half we assessed him and he had a knock at the back of his heel but it was literally a kick, some swelling at the back of his heel.

“But it settled down and he managed to play for Ireland and trained with us yesterday.”

And more good news for O’Neill is that Marc Wilson is back in contention for Stoke City for Monday night’s trip to Swansea after recovering from ankle and calf problems.

The 28-year-old defender playing in a 2-0 win over Birmingham City in a behind closed doors training game yesterday.

“Marc is fine,” said Stoke boss Mark Hughes.

“He’s been away with Ireland and didn’t play but not through injury. He played a half yesterday because he needed game time. He’s available for selection.”

Meanwhile, Wilson’s team mate Shay Given is continuing to receive treatment on his knee injury at the club.

However, the injury won’t require surgery.

Hughes added: “He’s working with the physios and is a bit more comfortable. We think it might settle down of its own accord and we will take it from there.”

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