Football: McCarthy to insist clubs release players

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The Independent Online
MICK McCARTHY, the Republic of Ireland manager, is set to infuriate a number of clubs by insisting his 20-man European Championship squad to face Yugoslavia meet up three days before the Lansdowne Road qualifier on 1 September.

The Republic are to play three matches in eight days as they follow the Yugoslavia game with trips to Zagreb to play Croatia on 4 September and Malta in Valetta on 8 September.

McCarthy is determined to have his players with him in Dublin well in advance of the first Group Eight qualifier even though that would clash with club matches. The Manchester United duo of Denis Irwin and Roy Keane would be certainties to face Newcastle on Monday, 30 August, while the Blackburn quartet of Alan Kelly, Jeff Kenna, Lee Carsley and Damien Duff would all be likely to feature against Bolton on the same day.

In the same situation are Portsmouth's Alan McLoughlin and West Bromwich's Kevin Kilbane, while Robbie Keane of Wolves will be expected to play at Crystal Palace on 31 August.

But McCarthy said: "I am not certain whether it is a ruling or a recommendation from Uefa to have the players available to their country but I know I want them in Dublin three days before we meet the Yugoslavs."

Emmanuel Petit is not the only player missing from the French squad to face Northern Ireland in an international friendly at Windsor Park tonight. Also out are Zinedine Zidane, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and Christian Karembeu. Didier Deschamps has a calf injury.

Their World Cup-winning defence of Bixente Lizarazu, Marcel Desailly, Laurent Blanc and Lilian Thuram should play, however, and the Bordeaux midfielder Johan Micoud is expected to make his debut.

Lawrie McMenemy, the Northern Ireland coach, will try out as many of his squad as possible and Tommy Wright, James Quinn and Ian Nolan will all figure at some stage. He is keen that the Irish build on their 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in Dublin in May and use the match as a springboard for their next two European Championship Group Three qualifiers against Turkey and Germany at the start of next month.

"Let's see if we can rise to the challenge and give the sort of performance that gives us hope for the future in the three games we've got left," McMenemy said. "It's terrific for us to be playing the world champions here in Belfast and I'm looking for a confidence booster ahead of Turkey and Germany."

A united Ireland team is to appear for the first time in a professional tournament. The former Northern Ireland international, Danny Wilson, will join Paul McGrath, the ex-Republic of Ireland defender, at the MEN Arena, Manchester, for the Carling Masters Home Internationals on 1 September.

Ray Houghton and John Aldridge, the former Liverpool and Republic players, will also play for the Irish side. Ireland will face England, Scotland and Wales in the competition.

Squads, Digest, page 23