Football: Charlton content with his complicated choices: Trevor Haylett reports on the difficulties success has brought for the Republic of Ireland manager

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The Independent Online
DARK glasses shielding him from the bright morning sun - and also no doubt from the dazzling headlines awaiting him on the return to Dublin - Jack Charlton was one of the first to rise yesterday at the Republic of Ireland hotel in Hanover. It was not yet 7 am and there he was pacing the surrounds, a contented manager, yet one also with much on his mind.

A few hours before his remarkable team had catapulted themselves into World Cup contention by overturning the holders. Beating the Dutch away was one thing but to give the same shock treatment to Germany suggests either the Irish are seriously good or seriously lucky.

The evidence on Sunday pointed more towards the former and while victories in friendlies count for nothing, there are sizeable rewards in the wealth of confidence gained from achieving what no side has done to the Germans for six years. Three successive wins without the concession of a goal and suddenly their 18 June fixture against Italy looks less onerous.

Keen as always to guard against wild predictions, Charlton suggested that Ireland were fortunate to survive chances Jurgen Klinsman and company would have devoured on other occasions and still looks no further for the likely World Cup winners. He also warned that the 2-0 scoreline would put more expectation on his team.

Exactly who will be in that team is the burning issue for the new Freeman of Dublin and a topic for passionate debate among its subjects. Every additional fixture throws up high-calibre performances from a series of contenders.

Hanover confirmed Alan Kelly's claims to stand alongside Packie Bonner for goalkeeping duty. Paul McGrath showed he was over his injuries in a defensive partnership with Phil Babb that grew in authority while Jason McAteer had a significant say in the first goal with which Tony Cascarino reminded his detractors of the virtues of aerial presence. Gary Kelly, Ireland's other scorer, will not win a place for his marksmanship but his burgeoning stature as right-back could just oust Denis Irwin.

Then is it Irwin or Terry Phelan at left-back? No wonder, with a final warm-up game on Sunday against the Czechs, it is punts not pennies being offered for Charlton's thoughts.

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