Football: McCarthy delays naming Republic side

Watford's David Connolly and Mark Kennedy of Liverpool passed fitness tests yesterday, but the Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, has delayed naming his team for the World Cup Group Eight qualifier against Liechtenstein in Dublin until just before kick-off.

Connolly, who strained a thigh in the warm-up for Pat Bonner's testimonial match on Sunday, believes he will be fit for the game, as does Kennedy, who is equally confident of his own chances despite some discomfort with a groin strain.

However, McCarthy sounded a note of caution yesterday, saying: "I won't take any chances. We will see if there is any reaction. But if they are both OK it will very difficult to make changes apart from the enforced ones after a good performance against Romania last month."

The Irish suffered a 1-0 defeat to the group leaders in Bucharest, but it was a vastly improved display from the 3-2 defeat in Macedonia three weeks earlier and they can climb to second place in the table with a three- goal win tonight.

The upsurge of confidence has prompted the Football Association of Ireland to discuss a two-year extension of McCarthy's contract which is due to expire in March.

Blackburn's Jeff Kenna is set to replace Manchester United's injured full-back Denis Irwin, after substituting impressively for him for the second half in Bucharest. Shay Given, Kenna's team-mate who is set for a pounds 2m move to Newcastle in the summer, will win his ninth cap in goal in place of the injured Alan Kelly.

Portsmouth's Alan McLoughlin is available after suspension, but is unlikely to regain a midfield place with the central trio looking certain to be Ray Houghton of Crystal Palace, United's Roy Keane and Andy Townsend of Aston Villa.

The Irish beat Liechtenstein 5-0 in Eschen in August and tonight's visitors are still without a point in the group.

However, McCarthy said: "They will take great delight in trying to make things as difficult as possible for us. They will come with a deep defence and try to quieten our crowd by frustrating us for as long as possible - the kind of thing we enjoyed doing when we went away to supposedly superior sides in Jack Charlton's days as manager - and so we can expect to have to work for anything we get."

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