Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is facing a mounting defensive crisis ahead of the start of the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign after Sean St Ledger was yesterday ruled out of next month’s trip to Kazakhstan.
St Ledger was forced off after just nine minutes of Leicester City’s friendly victory over Burton Albion on Wednesday night and the Championship side yesterday confirmed the 27-year-old had suffered a medial ligament strain.
A statement on the club’s website read: “The Republic of Ireland international suffered a medial ligament strain in the early stages of the game at the Pirelli Stadium and is expected to be sidelined for a period of six to eight weeks.’’
St Ledger’s injury is a huge blow for Trapattoni, coming in the same week as Richard Dunne — who is currently pondering his international future— was also ruled out of the Kazakhstan game.
As a result Trapattoni will be forced to play an unfamiliar centre-half partnership against the Kazaks as Ireland look to take their first steps towards recovery after the trauma of Euro 2012.
John O’Shea is likely to move across from right-back and could be partnered by Darren O’Dea, who yesterday completed a surprise move to Toronto, or Hull’s Paul McShane.
Trapattoni reacted quickly to the news of St Ledger’s injury, replacing him with West Ham defender Joey O’Brien for the friendly against Serbia on August 15.
It is O’Brien’s first involvement with the squad since October 2008, when Ireland beat Cyprus 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier.
Despite an injury crisis O’Brien was unused in that game and shortly afterwards the then Bolton man went public with his dissatisfaction at his lack of game time.
“I love playing for my country, love meeting up and I have great friends,’’ O’Brien said. “But I don’t like walking around in a tracksuit saying, ‘I play for Ireland’. I’m like a fan in a tracksuit.
“I’m gutted about the whole thing. The manager is the manager and he’s a great manager, but I’m not in his plans.
“When you look at the team that played against Cyprus, it proved to me how far down the list I was in the dressing room.
“From a personal point of view, I am looking at the manager and I don’t know if he comes to watch the games I play or what.
“You don’t know how far you are down the list, and that makes it hard.’’
Perhaps unsurprisingly, O’Brien hasn’t figured since but yesterday Trapattoni surprisingly decided to bring in a player who has had a number of injury problems in recent years back into the fold.
O’Dea, meanwhile, has revealed he consulted with Trapattoni before agreeing to join MLS side Toronto.
“I spoke to Trapattoni about it and he was fine about me going there, he said it was a good thing to do,’’ O’Dea, who was released by Celtic in June, told the Evening Herald.
“His only concern was in terms of the international team and me being released for games and being able to travel. I spoke to the club about it before I signed and they were happy for me to carry on playing for Ireland.
“It does mean more travelling but players do this all the time — play for clubs in the MLS and go back to Europe to play for their countries.
“In fact they were very encouraging, they feel it reflects well on the club to have international players in the squad. So I will be over for the Serbia game and hopefully be in the squad and maybe the team for the Kazakhstan qualifier next month.
“No matter what happens, once I am in the squad and fit I will be on a plane over to Ireland for the games. My Ireland career is so important to me and it’s not something I want to give up on in any way.’’
Toronto are managed by former England striker Paul Mariner, who said of his new signing: “Darren addresses our need for an experienced, no nonsense central defender.
“Darren has great leadership abilities and his experience, both for club and country, will be a welcomed addition to our club and for our young players. We are so pleased to bring him to Toronto.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved