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Jeff Hendrick will miss the Republic of Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifier at home to Serbia on Tuesday after failing to recover from a thigh injury.
Manager Martin O’Neill had been hoping to welcome back the Burnley man after the team’s poor display in Georgia.
However, O’Neill confirmed on Monday morning that the 25-year-old would remain out for the contest in Dublin against the Group D leaders.
“He is still feeling it (the injury). He’ll miss out,” said O’Neill.
The Republic boss also added that Aiden McGeady (hamstring) and Wes Hoolahan (groin) are fitness concerns for the Irish.
McGeady was scheduled to undergo a scan on Monday while O’Neill said that Norwich veteran Hoolahan had felt some “tightness” in his groin.
Hoolahan ignored in Tbilisi
Out-of-contention Georgia dominated on Saturday in Tbilisi as the Republic hung on for a 1-1 draw following Shane Duffy’s early goal.
Central midfielder Glenn Whelan looked an obvious choice to lose out after managing only three forward passes during the entire contest as the Georgians enjoyed 69% of the possession.
Hendrick was being tipped to replace Aston Villa player Whelan but that option is not now available to O’Neill.
The Republic’s inability to hold on to the ball in Tbilisi has increased the clamour from some for the inclusion of 35-year-old Hoolahan, who remained on the bench on Saturday despite the misfiring display.
However, the Norwich veteran’s groin issue could reduce his chances of earning a recall, with Hull City’s David Meyler another possible midfield option for O’Neill.
Playing alongside a more dynamic central midfield partner in Hoolahan could possibly aid Bournemouth man Harry Arter, who struggled badly before being substituted on Saturday.
Shane Long also had a frustrating evening in his lone frontman role in Tbilisi and O’Neill may decide Daryl Murphy’s greater physical presence represents a better offensive option against the Serbs.
Murphy notched the late equaliser in last September’s 2-2 draw in Belgrade after Hendrick had given the Irish an early lead.
At the back, Stephen Ward had an uncomfortable outing at left-back in Tbilisi and Robbie Brady’s struggles in the floating midfield role may convince O’Neill to start the former Norwich player on the defensive flank.
Republic need ‘phenomenal effort’ – O’Neill
The Serbs moved two points ahead of the second-placed Irish by earning a 3-0 home win over Moldova on Saturday as Mijat Gacinovic scored his second goal in as many internationals.
Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Gacinovic was the pick of the Serb players in Belgrade as ex-Manchester City player Aleksandar Kolarov and Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic were also on target.
Serbia coach Slavoljub Muslin withdrew Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic and Southampton’s Dusan Tadic well before the end with a view to keeping them fresh for Tuesday’s Dublin contest.
Republic boss O’Neill says his side, who started the group as fourth seeds, will have to produce a “phenomenal effort” to beat a more technically adept team.
“We’ll have to be really, really at our best to win the game – but we can do that,” added O’Neill.
“We’re in there fighting, that’s what we’re doing. We are unbeaten in the group at this moment. It’s hard to believe, but we’re unbeaten in the group.
“We’re going to try and do two things – win the game, and if we can’t do that, then we’ll try to get something out of it.”
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