Football Euro 2000: McCarthy makes most of home comfort

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AFTER CONFIRMATION that next Wednesday's second leg of their European Championship play-off against Turkey would go ahead as scheduled in Bursa, the Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, yesterday affirmed that he would be satisfied with any margin of victory from this evening's first game to take there.

The Turks had moved their home leg south to Bursa, where they have previously beaten Germany and Holland, only to have the venue put in doubt by earth tremors in the region on Thursday. Yesterday Ray Treacy, the former Charlton and Swindon striker who now organises the Republic's travel, reported back from Turkey that the problem was nothing more than an after-shock from the serious earthquake in August and that Wednesday's match was not in doubt.

McCarthy has named an attacking team in the hope of securing an advantage to take into it, with Derby County's Rory Delap and West Bromwich Albion's Kevin Kilbane as his wide midfielders. If Kilbane was the obvious replacement for the injured Mark Kennedy on the left, Delap needs to justify the manager's faith on his first appearance since a friendly against Mexico 18 months ago.

The other changes from a side that was 12 seconds away from qualification last month before conceding an equaliser to Macedonia, are as expected. With Steve Staunton and Ian Harte injured, Denis Irwin switches to left back, Stephen Carr comes in on the right, Lee Carsley replaces Mark Kinsella, who is suspended for one game, and - most important of all - Roy Keane returns. The inspirational Manchester United and Ireland captain has missed six of his country's last seven games and it is probable that had he been available for the critical trips to Macedonia and Croatia - where the Irish also fell apart in the last few moments - they would have qualified automatically.

Given their performances at home to teams like Croatia and Yugoslavia, both of whom were beaten at Lansdowne Road, there are further persuasive reasons for believing that Ireland should have avoided what seems certain to be a difficult double header against one of the most improved footballing nations in Europe.

The professional view was put yesterday by Wimbledon's Kenny Cunningham, who said: "We didn't do enough, that's what the league table tells us. But there's a quiet determination to put the record straight."

The record in question includes losing a World Cup play-off two years ago, after allowing Belgium an away goal and then having David Connolly sent off in the return. As four of this afternoon's squad are on a yellow card, discipline will be important in every sense. "We don't want to see an away goal," said McCarthy. "But we can't set up a negative approach. I'll settle for any victory."

That will not be easy. Turkey are no longer the sort of team that Ireland used to cruise past, when McCarthy was captain rather than coach. After qualifying for Euro 96 but failing to score a goal, Turkey would have won their group ahead of Germany this time but for suffering unexpectedly their only defeat at home to Finland.

The squad includes nine players from Galatasaray, who frightened Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Champions' League this season before subsiding to a 5-0 defeat at home. If there is a weakness, that result in Istanbul against Turkey's leading club side illustrates it: a tendency to become discouraged too easily when things go against them. That may help explain the familiar complaints first aired in London and now repeated in Dublin, about inadequate facilities, accompanied by dire threats of revenge in their own country.

Relations were not improved yesterday when negotiations for television coverage of next Wednesday's game took another lurch for the worse. A spokesman for RTE said the Turkish rights holders had suddenly increased their demands from pounds 1.2 million to pounds 1.8m, despite having been offered only a reported pounds 76,000. There will be less of a gap between the two football teams this evening, and indeed on Wednesday, than their television counterparts.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: A Kelly (Blackburn) S Carr (Tottenham), K Cunningham (Wimbledon), G Breen (Coventry), D Irwin (Manchester United), R Delap (Derby), L Carsley (Blackburn), Roy Keane (Manchester United), K Kilbane (West Bromwich Albion), N Quinn (Sunderland), Robbie Keane (Coventry).