Martin O’Neill believes that it’s still “touch and go” as to whether Shane Long will be fit for next month’s European Championship play-off against Bosnia.
He also thinks it will be “tight going” for John O’ Shea, already suspended for the first leg in Zenica, to recover from his hamstring injury in time to make the return game in Dublin.
Long incurred an ankle injury in the final qualifying group game against Poland and, while the news from Southampton about his recovery has been encouraging, O’Neill is not prepared to count his chickens ahead of the biggest games of his reign as Ireland manager.
“Shane is improving,” said the manager at his squad announcement at FAI headquarters today. “I spoke to him last week and he’s optimistic – but then he’s always optimistic. I think it will be touch and go but for us it would be great if he was available.”
On John O’ Shea’s injury, O’Neill said: “It’s a Grade 1 hamstring. All hamstring injuries are a concern but this is less concerning than if it was a Grade 3. Only time will tell, but it might be tight going.”
Despite the Sunderland man’s definite absence for the first leg and possible unavailability for the second, O’Neill said that he had not contemplated calling up Crystal Palace centre-half Damien Delaney.
Reflecting on the overall challenge next month, the manager described Bosnia as “strong, coming good at the right time after a sluggish start, absolutely flying now. They have some very good players, players who play in big leagues.
“But we’re going into this with plenty of confidence. I don’t think the result in Poland will have diminished the confidence we got from beating Germany. We’re really looking forward to the games.”
With the injured Stephen Quinn the only notable omission, O’Neill has named a familiar extended squad of 39 which will be slimmed down closer to the play-off dates.