Football: Republic welcome back veteran trio

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Denis Irwin, Steve Staunton and Andy Townsend have all been recalled to the Republic of Ireland squad for the first leg of the World Cup play- off game against Belgium at Lansdowne Road on 15 November.

Irwin and Staunton were omitted from the squad for the final Group Eight game against Romania in Dublin last Saturday because of the fear of picking up another yellow card. The game ended 1-1. Andy Townsend, the Republic skipper, missed that game because of a knee injury, but proved his fitness in Middlesbrough's win over Sunderland on Wednesday.

Left out on this occasion by the Republic's manager, Mick McCarthy, are Spurs' Stephen Carr, Everton's Gareth Farrelly and Tranmere's Liam O'Brien. Liverpool's Phil Babb misses out because of a cracked rib picked up in a training session with his club earlier this week.

McCarthy admitted that Jason McAteer had not played as well as he had hoped in the Romanian game. "All the transfer talk didn't help him. I want Jason to be single-minded about this game and not to be thinking about where he or anyone else might be in a few months time," McCarthy said.

The 22-man Irish squad will assemble in Dublin next Friday and there will be no releases of players to any English Premiership or First Division clubs for Saturday games.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (squad to play Belgium in first leg of World Cup play-off, Lansdowne Road, Dublin, 29 October): Given (Newcastle), A Kelly (Sheff Utd); G Kelly (Leeds), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Harte (Leeds), Breen (Coventry), Kenna (Blackburn), Irwin (Manchester Utd), Phelan (Everton), Fleming (Middlesbrough), Townsend (Middlesbrough), Staunton (Aston Villa), Houghton (Reading), McAteer (Liverpool), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), Carsley (Derby), Cascarino (Nancy), Kennedy (Liverpool), Connolly (Feyenoord), D Kelly (Tranmere), Evans (Southampton), Coyne (Motherwell).