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Saturday 25 November 2017

Keogh may be key for Wales

Richard Keogh (p) is almost certain to partner Ciaran Clark in the centre of Ireland’s defence for the World Cup qualifier against Wales this month after Shane Duffy picked up an injury last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
Richard Keogh (p) is almost certain to partner Ciaran Clark in the centre of Ireland’s defence for the World Cup qualifier against Wales this month after Shane Duffy picked up an injury last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

The fitness of Derby County man Richard Keogh has taken on an international dimension as Martin O'Neill may need to call on the defender for the World Cup battle with Wales in two weeks' time now that Shane Duffy is ruled out.

Duffy has started five of the last six competitive international matches, stretching back to the win over Italy at Euro 2016, and the only time he missed out was away to Serbia, when he served a suspension for his sending off against France in Lyon. But the Derry-born player will be sidelined for at least six weeks after breaking a bone in his foot while on Championship duty last weekend, a major blow for his club boss Chris Hughton.

"It means we have to adjust and that's part and parcel of what happens at a football club," says Hughton, his side in Championship action against bottom side Rotherham tonight.

"You have to work around situations and that's why we have the squad that we have.

"Shane hasn't been the only one missed through an injury over the course of this season.

"As regards to time, he's probably looking at a minimum of six weeks. It's a big loss, particularly at his stage of the season, and also more for him because he's had a wonderful season so far. He's formed a very good relationship with Lewis Dunk, and we've also missed him for some games this season, although not many.

"But you work around these things."

With Ciaran Clark almost certain to start at home to Wales, Martin O'Neill needs to find a partner for the Newcastle United man, with Derby County pair Richard Keogh and Alex Pearce, John O'Shea and Paul McShane all in contention.

O'Shea, who started the first two games at Euro 2016 but was dropped following the 3-0 loss to Belgium, has managed just one start in the qualifiers to date and his confidence may be bruised by Sunderland's struggles at the foot of the Premier League though his experience offers him a huge advantage.

Keogh, who started alongside O'Shea in central defence in the 2-2 draw in Serbia, is likely to get the nod to partner Clark if fit but he has been battling with a calf injury of late and misses the Rams' game at home to Preston tonight, with only an outside chance of being back for Friday's meeting with Brighton.

"He's running and has been doing a bit outside. We're trying to get him back for Friday. If not, then it will have to be next week," Derby boss Steve McClaren said ahead of tonight's game.

Pearce (28) has yet to play in a competitive international but he has been in superb form for Derby this season, scoring twice in 29 league games for McClaren's side.

McShane (31) has returned to the Reading side following injury and scored the winner in last week's win over Wolves. His last competitive Ireland appearance was in Paris in 2009.

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