Shay Given has handed Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni a late injury scare ahead of Wednesday’s flight to Estonia for the European Championship playoffs.
The Aston Villa goalkeeper sat out training in Malahide on Tuesday after complaining of a stiff neck, but Trapattoni believes his number one will be available for Friday’s big match in Tallinn.
Back-up goalkeeper David Forde of Millwall is definitely out of the game after returning to his club for treatment on a thigh injury with his place taken by Motherwell’s Darron Randolph.
Shane Long and Liam Lawrence are definitely out of both games with Estonia, while defender John O’Shea and striker Leon Best may yet make the return leg in Dublin next Tuesday night as they battle against injuries.
Richard Dunne, Keith Fahey and Keith Andrews also sat out training on Tuesday but again as a precaution.
“We are confident that Shay will be okay to train in the match stadium on Thursday and play against Estonia on Friday,” said Ireland coach Marco Tardelli.
Captain Robbie Keane arrived home on Tuesday and is ready to carry on from where he left off on the other side of the world.
Keane scored and played a hugely influential role as the LA Galaxy scored a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Championship on Sunday night.
They now play the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup 2011 decider at their Home Depot Stadium on November 20th, after Keane’s bid to get Ireland to the Euro 2012 finals.
“We haven’t qualified for the European Championships for the last 20 years or so. It’s going to be a big occasion,” said Keane.
“Seeing everyone back home, I know everyone’s looking forward to it. Of course I’m just happy to be back fit and I look forward to the games.”
Keane’s Man of the Match performance against Real Salt Lake, when he scored one goal and could have had a hat-trick, was his third game in a week and proof positive that he is recovered from the adductor muscle injury picked up in the Euro win over Andorra last month.
“When the injury first happened they said four to six weeks, and that really would have put me out,” added Keane.
“It’s always nice to get back early, and I managed to do that. I’m very happy.”
Stoke City striker Jonathon Walters looks certain to partner Keane with Long’s absence.
With Kevin Doyle suspended for the first leg in Tallinn, Walters is now the favorite, ahead of Simon Cox, to partner Keane in the Baltics.
“Jonathon Walters is more suited to playing up top, ahead of Robbie Keane,” said Trapattoni.
“Keane and Cox are very similar players. It is not impossible to play them together but I think Walters has shown in the past that he can play in that role, in front of Robbie.
“I am happy that Robbie is fit again and playing for his club in America. He is in good form and looking forward to the game.”
Midfielder Glenn Whelan believes the pain of Paris and that controversial Thierry Henry handball two years ago will drive Ireland on against Estonia.
“The lads that were involved know the feeling of that final whistle in France when we got beaten, and nobody wants to have that feeling again,” Whelan said.
“So we can use that as motivation going into both games against Estonia and change things around after the last time and hopefully qualify, which will give everybody a big lift.”
NORTHERN Ireland winger Paddy McCourt was Celtic’s super-sub as he inspired a second half fight-back at Motherwell on Sunday.
Neil Lennon’s team moved back into second spot in the Scottish Premier League thanks to the 2-1 win at Fir Park, three days after a 3-1 victory at home to French side Rennes in the Europa League.