Wes Hoolahan ruled out of Republic´s World Cup qualifier against Wales

Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle revealed how he was almost Bale's team-mate

With star man Robbie Brady already suspended for Friday night's showdown at the Aviva Stadium, O'Neill has seen first-choice central defensive pairing Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark, as well as midfielder Harry Arter, succumb to injury. Unfortunately it has happened at a real crucial time for us. However, other players will have to step up and just be ready for Friday.

Unbeaten Ireland now top Group D with 10 points from their opening four qualifiers with the Welsh four points behind in third place.

However, the former Aston Villa defender, who has become a firm favourite of the Ireland manager was not named in the Newcastle match-day squad, which ruled him out of the global action, and as a result both centre-halves who started against Austria in November miss out this week. Their own experiences of the Euros will stand them in good stead.

Ireland now sit four points clear of Friday's opponents and O'Neill's side will know that victory over the Euro 2016 semi-finalists will put a real dent in the Welsh hopes of making it to Russian Federation. "He's into the world-class bracket".

"He's a really fine player, there's no question about that".

Robbie Brady, who picked up a hat-trick of awards at the FAI awards ceremony for 2016 (player of the year, young player of the year, and goal of the year for that header in Lille), is unavailable for the Wales tie due to suspension.

I'm feeling oddly confident about this game against Wales even though O'Neill and the rest of us have virtually no idea a week out from the game which team he will be able to put out.

Striker Jonathan Walters has been around the Republic squad long enough to know they are often at their best when their backs are against the wall, and is hoping the same applies this week.

"We showed that in the summer [at Euro 2016], such a hard group to get out of and we did, and we've shown that in this campaign so far".

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