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Sunday 4 December 2016

Yellow peril for Martin O'Neill and key defensive pairing in Euro qualifiers

Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman (right) and Poland's Slawomir Peszko confront each other during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman (right) and Poland's Slawomir Peszko confront each other during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin

IRELAND have been left with the threat of a yellow peril for the key games in the European Championship qualifiers after running up the worst disciplinary record in the group.

UEFA have changed the rules on bookings and suspensions for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, as two yellow cards no longer leads to an automatic ban and a player now needs to get booked three times to earn a suspension - so Poland will be without key defender Kamil Glik for their next game, at home to Georgia in June, as his caution in Dublin was his third of the campaign.

Ireland currently have two players on two bookings, Séamus Coleman and Marc Wilson.

And while Martin O'Neill and the FAI would of course be slow (in public anyway) to encourage a player to get booked, if that duo happened to get a yellow card at home to Scotland in June, they would serve their suspension in the following game, the expected away win against minnows Gibraltar in September and then be free for the much more important tests against Georgia, Germany and Poland.

Ireland have had 11 players booked in the five qualifiers so far, more than any of the group rivals and only Georgia (10 players cautioned) and Poland (9) come close, with Germany and Scotland both having six booked players with while Gibraltar (4) are the good boys of the group.

Scotland also have a bit of a dilemma as three of their important players (Grant Hanley, James Morrison and Charlie Mulgrew are on two bookings, so a yellow away to Ireland in June would force them to miss their big game in Georgia.

Wilson and Coleman have been booked twice while Jonathan Walters (v Georgia), Glenn Whelan (v Germany), Aiden McGeady, Jeff Hendrick, James McClean and Stephen Quinn (all v Scotland), John O'Shea, James McCarty and Wes Hoolahan (v Poland) are on one booking.

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