Friday, June 3, 2011

Keane passed fit for crucial Euro qualifier

Ireland captain Robbie Keane has been passed fit for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia in Skopje on Saturday night.

Keane, who suffered a groin injury during a training session on Thursday, will partner Simon Cox in attack.

Darren O'Dea starts in defence along with Stephen Kelly, John O'Shea and Kevin Kilbane.

The line-up includes a strong midfield of Aiden McGeady, Stephen Hunt, Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews.

West Brom striker Cox earned his first Republic caps in last week's Nations Cup wins over Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Cox impressed in both games - scoring in the 5-0 win over Northern Ireland - but Shane Long had been expected to partner Keane in attack.

O'Dea gets the nod ahead of Preston defender St Ledger, who insisted he would be fit to play in central defence.

Stephen Ward impressed at left-back in the Nations Cup games against Northern Ireland and Scotland but veteran Kilbane returns to face Macedonia.

O'Shea switches to central defence and Kelly fills the right-back spot.

The Boys In Green will be aiming to stay firmly in contention in Group B by earning a positive result in Skopje.

They, like group leaders Slovakia and Russia in second, have collected 10 points from their five games to date, the last three of them against the Macedonians in Dublin in March.

Robbie Keane's strike that night secured a 2-1 victory and the completion of a double would leave the Republic in a strong position to stake their claim for a place in the finals.

Richard Dunne is suspended for the Macedonia clash while injured quartet Darron Gibson, Damien Duff, Kevin Doyle and James McCarthy are unavailable as are Jonathan Walters, Anthony Stokes and Kieren Westwood.

Slovakia entertain minnows Andorra on Saturday with the Russians hosting Armenia, who trail the top three by just two points.

Ireland: Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Darren O'Dea, John O'Shea, Kevin Kilbane, Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Stephen Hunt, Robbie Keane, Simon Cox.