Football: Kernaghan crosses Irish divide

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The Independent Online
THE Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland both host World Cup ties this evening, and the Republic will field a centre-back against Latvia in Dublin who has already won six schoolboy caps for the North.

Alan Kernaghan, Middlesbrough's 25-year-old defender, did not know he was eligible for Jack Charlton's team until six months ago. Because of his grandparents' ancestry, the Geordie- born Kernaghan is allowed to choose between North and South for his Irish international status.

Jack Charlton, the Republic's manager, said: 'It's great because he is just the kind of player we have been looking for - young, strong and somebody who fits the bill perfectly.'

Kernaghan's introduction may mark the start of a new-look Republic side. Blackburn's Kevin Moran, one of the heroes of Italia '90, has already been ditched from the squad and now the 34-year-old Arsenal defender David O'Leary will make way for Kernaghan.

Charlton has handed the captaincy to Andy Townsend, indicating that it is a permanent job for the Chelsea midfielder, 'because we need somebody who is going to be with us regularly and somebody who fancies the job'.

Northern Ireland face Albania at Windsor Park in less confident mood, having managed only a 2-2 draw with Lithuania in their World Cup opener in April, but their manager Billy Bingham hopes they can rediscover the form that saw them hold the world champions Germany to a draw in an away friendly.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Bonner (Celtic); Irwin (Man Utd), McGrath (Aston Villa), Kernaghan (Middlesbrough), Staunton (Aston Villa) or Phelan (Man City), Keane (Nottm Forest), Whelan (Liverpool), Townsend (Chelsea, capt), Sheedy (Newcastle), Quinn (Man City), Aldridge (Tranmere).

NORTHERN IRELAND (probable): Wright (Newcastle); Donaghy (Chelsea), Worthington (Sheff Wed), Taggart (Barnsley), McDonald (QPR), Magilton (Oxford), Black (Nottm Forest), Clarke (Portsmouth), Dowie (Southampton), K Wilson (Notts Co), Hughes (Strasbourg).