Football: McCarthy sees the future

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The Independent Online
ROBBIE KEANE and Damien Duff have been given the chance to enhance their growing international reputations for the Republic of Ireland when they face Mexico at Lansdowne Road today.

The Republic's coach, Mick McCarthy, had no hesitation in naming the two teenagers in his starting line-up against the World Cup qualifiers.

It is one of the youngest sides ever to represent the Republic - it has an average age of just 22 - and McCarthy said: "This side does not reflect the team I would hope to play against Croatia in our opening European Championship game in September. But it represents a good opportunity for many of our young players to show their ability at this level."

The Leeds captain Gary Kelly and the Liverpool centre-half Phil Babb are the only survivors from the 22-man squad which played in the World Cup in America in 1994.

Since taking over from Jack Charlton two years ago, McCarthy has lost 10 and won just six of his 23 internationals in charge, though he has been hit by a lot of bad luck.

Indeed, missing from the Dublin line-up today will be Jeff Kenna, Kenny Cunningham, Steve Staunton, Denis Irwin, Jason McAteer, Niall Quinn and Mark Kinsella.

McCarthy added: "It's unnatural the number of call-offs from the squad, but they are all genuine. Some of those who will play against Mexico are on stand-by but it's a great experience for them to be in the squad."

This will definitely be a competitive game," McCarthy said. "We have no affinity with the Mexicans and it's the ideal opportunity for my young squad to show that they can perform at the highest level."

Mexico defeated the Irish 2-1 in the World Cup finals in the States four years ago. Two years later the teams drew 2-2 in the USA Cup, with Niall Quinn and Liam Daish both shown the red card and McCarthy also ordered from the bench in New Jersey.

Mexico will be hoping to bounce back after a disastrous 5-2 defeat by Norway in Oslo on Wednesday, with their coach, Manuel Lapuente, set to recall the veteran goalkeeper Jorge Campos and his top striker, Luis Garcia.

It was Garcia who scored both goals against the Republic in Orlando four years ago and then repeated that double-strike performance against McCarthy's men in 1996.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (Friendly v Mexico, Lansdowne Road, Dublin, today): Given (Newcastle); Fleming (Middlesbrough), Breen (Coventry), Babb (Liverpool), Harte (Leeds), Kelly (Leeds), Carsley (Derby), Farrelly (Everton), Duff (Blackburn), Keane (Wolves), Connolly (Feyenoord).

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