Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni is keeping his fingers crossed over skipper Robbie Keane after an injury scare ahead of tomorrow's Euro 2012 qualifier in Macedonia.
The striker sat out the final stages of a practice match during the squad's final training session in Malahide on Thursday morning before their departure for Skopje. Keane has been struggling with an Achilles problem for some time, but it was later revealled the 30-year-old had suffered a groin strain stretching for the ball.
Speaking immediately after the session, assistant boss Marco Tardelli said: "After 15 minutes, he stopped because he has a little problem with his groin. But we think he will be good for Macedonia. I think, I don't know. In this moment, we can say nothing. I hope Robbie Keane will be okay, but if the match was tomorrow, then he wouldn't play."
Trapattoni had himself been due to give an update on his players, but headed straight for the bus to leave his assistant to do the talking. That was perhaps a reflection of how important Keane is to his team, although even with Wolves frontman Kevin Doyle injured, the Italian does at least have options.
West Brom striker Simon Cox, who scored on his debut against Northern Ireland last week, has impressed, while Reading's Shane Long has established himself as a genuine contender for a place in the starting line-up in recent months.
Long, of course, arrived in Dublin still coming to terms with his club's npower Championship play-off final defeat by Swansea on Monday. However, Tardelli is confident he will be ready to start if required.
He said: "At training yesterday, Long didn't appear to be fit. But today he has shown that he is fit. At this time, we have many choices and there are possibilities there to make decisions.
"There is still a bit of a stress after Shane Long playing such a big match only on Monday. I don't know which one of them may play because we also have this problem with Robbie Keane.
"But it is fair to say that Simon Cox is ahead of Shane Long at this moment in time."
At the back, Richard Dunne is suspended while Sean St Ledger's attempts to make himself available after a 10-week lay-off with a knee injury look doomed.
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.