St Ledger out as Ireland’s defensive woes grow

IRELAND’S defensive crisis has deepened with the news that Sean St Ledger has lost his battle to be fit for the June 4 European Championship qualifier away to Macedonia.

Darren O’Dea, the Celtic player on loan at Ipswich, is still recovering from an ankle injury and is the intended replacement for the Preston North End man. With Richard Dunne already ruled out through suspension, Giovanni Trapattoni will doubtless be holding his rosary beads tomorrow night in the hope that John O’Shea comes through the Champions League final unscathed.

St Ledger is the victim of friendly fire, dating back to a training session before the home win over Macedonia in March, during which he sustained a knee injury in a collision with Ciaran Clark — the Aston Villa man who, ironically, went on to become yet another injury casualty in the current squad.

St Ledger hadn’t been able to play for his club since but, in recent days, there were signs that he might yet come good in time for the match in Skopje.

However, at the squad’s training base in Malahide yesterday, the manager had to break the news that the game was finally up for the centre-half.

“Sean St Ledger has gone back to his club and he won’t come back to us,” said Trapattoni.

“He does not feel good at the moment and it is important that we have players who can play well.

“We still have (Darren) O’Dea, John O’Shea, (Stephen) Kelly and (Damien) Delaney — we have enough at the back. Darren O’Dea is good, that is the good news. He is available and that is important, especially for Macedonia. At this moment, he will play in Skopje because Macedonia have big players and he is experienced.

“Also in the last game (against Macedonia) he played well. And if he shows us today that he is fit, then he can play against Scotland for the first half or maybe 50 minutes on Sunday.”

Asked if he would be contacting John O’Shea and Shane Long to wish them the best of luck in the respective final club games of the season, Trapattoni revealed his superstitious side.

“Before the game you never wish anybody luck because it is bad luck,” he said, adding with a broad smile, “but I spoke to them in the last week and they answered me immediately. Yes, it clarified the situation!”

The reference, of course, was to the contrasting communications breakdown which has dominated the off-the-pitch headlines this week. And, Trapattoni, in jovial mood, was yesterday striking a more conciliatory tone in a bid to draw a line under the controversy.

“You know I am 30 years a manager and I know German players, English players, Irish players, Italian players, African Players, Portuguese players and South American players,” he said.

“I know them. For me, there is no difficulty. The players are like kids, they are younger but acting in an adult world so you must be patient.

“We have to have patience, patience, patience. And the players who are not with us now, in the future they will be with us. There is no problem.”

So will we see James McCarthy again in August?

“Never say never. For me, there are never players who stay at home. All we want is commitment.”

Meanwhile, ahead of the Carling Nations Cup decider against Scotland on Sunday, Robbie Keane, Keith Treacy and Stephen Kelly all missed training yesterday morning with a variety of knocks and strains, as did Glenn Whelan, who is due to have a slight ankle problem assessed by the Irish medical staff, and Keith Fahey, who was suffering from a migraine.

Gone but not forgotten

THE following are the 11 players who have withdrawn through injury (and in one case, tiredness) from the provisional 33-man squad which Giovanni Trapattoni announced on May 4: Kieren Westwood, Richard Dunne (suspension), Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy, Marc Wilson, Anthony Stokes, Caleb Folan, Jon Walters, Sean St Ledger, Damien Duff and Kevin Doyle.


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