Babb makes welcome return

Football
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The Independent Online
Phil Babb, hoping to be picked for an FA Cup final appearance with Liverpool, will win his 20th cap for the Republic of Ireland against the Czech Republic in Prague this afternoon. The centre-half, who will line up alongside Paul McGrath and Kenny Cunningham, is to play his first game since suffering a toe injury in Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Wimbledon last month.

"Roy Evans will be pleased I am playing as he was very anxious I should get a game under my belt as soon as possible," Babb said. "At first the specialist thought I would be out for six weeks, which would have meant my season being over. But now I am back playing for the Republic and am still hopeful of being considered for Wembley."

Mick McCarthy, the Republic manager, has been forced to field an experimental side as many of his first-choice players are out because of injuries and club commitments, while Roy Keane is suspended.

Making their senior international debuts are Cunningham and the Middlesbrough midfielder Alan Moore. "It's an exciting time for them, and a good opportunity for them to show me what they can do at this level," McCarthy said.

McCarthy also revealed he had no hesitation in giving Aston Villa's McGrath a record 82nd cap. "Paul may have lost a yard of pace, but is still quicker than when I was a fully fit player. He is an inspiration to the other players. If Paul can maintain his present form and stays in the Premiership, he will always be part of my plans."

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (v Czech Republic, Prague, today): Given (Blackburn); Kenna (Blackburn), Irwin (Man United), Cunningham (Wimbledon), McGrath (Aston Villa), Babb (Liverpool), Houghton (Crystal Palace), Townsend (Aston Villa), Kennedy (Liverpool), Quinn (Man City), Moore (Middlesbrough). Substitutes: Bonner (Celtic), Fleming (Middlesbrough), Kernaghan (Man City), Daish (Coventry), McGoldrick (Arsenal).

CZECH REPUBLIC: Kouba (Sparta Prague), Kadlec (Kaiserslautern), Hapal (Tenerife), Roda, Repka (Sparta Prague), Nemecek (Servette), Frydek (Sparta Prague), Latal ((Schalke 04), Berger (Borussia Dortmund), Kuka (Kaiserslautern), Drulak (Petra Drnovice).

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