Football: Bonner cast in lead

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

PAT BONNER may not be able to find a place among the first XI at Celtic, but a twist of fate means the veteran will be the undisputed No1 for the Republic of Ireland tomorrow when he leads his country for the first time in their European Championship qualifier against Liechtenstein in Dublin.

'I am only playing because Alan Kelly is unfortunately injured. To be honest, after the highs of World Cup finals I thought those days were over for me, but this has given me a great lift,' the 34-year-old goalkeeper said.

He has played only 45 minutes for the Celtic first team this season, in a pre-season friendly. Nevertheless, Jack Charlton, Ireland's manager, had no hesitation in extending Bonner's record number of caps to 77.

Charlton, who misses the game to watch future Group Six opponents Austria and Northern Ireland, will not name his side until after training today, but he will have Niall Quinn leading the attack as the Manchester City striker has shaken off a neck injury.

Liechtenstein do not arrive in Dublin until today. Most of them were involved in regional League games in Switzerland on Sunday and could not afford time off work to travel to Ireland any earlier.

Kingsley Black, the Nottingham Forest winger who was called into Northern Ireland's squad to face Austria as a replacement for Steve Morrow, has had to withdraw.