Football: Keen Carsley given pivotal role

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The Independent Online
NIALL QUINN and Lee Carsley are the key figures in the Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy's plans for the game against Northern Ireland in Dublin tomorrow.

It is a "game for peace" which provides McCarthy with the final warm- up before the imminent re-entry into the Euro 2000 qualifiers. McCarthy's team face two critical qualifiers at home to Yugoslavia next Saturday and Macedonia four days later.

As much as McCarthy and the Northern Ireland manager, Lawrie McMenemy, are applauding the good cause for which they are playing, both are also anxious to obtain pointers for bigger battles to come. The engagement is more pressing for the Republic - especially as they now know they will be without their inspirational captain, Roy Keane, for the clashes with Yugoslavia and Macedonia.

The combative Blackburn Rovers midfielder Lee Carsley is being given the chance to show he can deputise for Keane. He must also try to put aside his own problems after suffering relegation from the Premiership with Rovers.

McCarthy, who has chosen to give the 25-year-old the opportunity rather than play the more experienced Alan McLoughlin, insists: "He can handle it. We all know that if Roy Keane is fit then Roy Keane plays and anybody else wanting his position has no chance because he's the best at it. But Lee's a good player and he's done well for us in important matches before.

"He got an early chance in Belgium a couple of years ago in a World Cup play-off and although we lost that game he was outstanding."

The longest-serving squad-member Quinn exemplifies the spirit in the Republic squad and in the absence of Keane and Steve Staunton, he has been handed the captaincy for tomorrow's game.

The Sunderland striker claims he'll be the proudest man in Dublin tomorrow as well as one of the happiest. "It's a big thrill and has completed a superb last few weeks for me," said the 32-year-old, who will be winning his 68th cap tomorrow. "It is an especially big honour in a match like this. The game is for a great cause with the opportunity to bring a bit of relief into the damaged lives of other people."

All the players will be donating their pounds 500 match fees to the Omagh Bomb Fund and a projected 20,000 crowd should raise upwards of pounds 400,000 for it.

NORTHERN IRELAND (probable): Taylor (Fulham); Hughes (Newcastle), Hunter (Reading), Williams (Chesterfield), Griffin (St Johnstone), Johnson (Blackburn), McCarthy (Birmingham), Lennon (Leicester), Rowland (QPR), Dowie (QPR), Quinn (West Brom).

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Newcastle), Carr (Tottenham), Maybury (Leeds), Babb (Liverpool), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Carsley (Blackburn), Kinsella (Charlton), Kennedy (Wimbledon), Duff (Blackburn), Keane (Wolves), Quinn (capt, Sunderland).