Football; Mulryne `just excited to play'

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PHILIP MULRYNE is ready to play the biggest match of his career for Northern Ireland against Turkey tonight. The Manchester United midfielder faces the daunting prospect of making his first competitive appearance for the Irish in the Euro 2000 qualifier in the intimidating Ali Sami Yen Stadium.

Mulryne, who has only made three senior appearances for United, will be winning his sixth cap. The 20-year-old was on the bench for most of United's Champions' League campaign last season.

"This has got to be the biggest game of my career so far," Mulryne beamed. "Up until now it was making my League debut at Barnsley, but this is even bigger. It's the European Championship and the first game of a new campaign. I'm not worried about the match, I'm just excited."

Lawrie McMenemy, the Northern Ireland manager, said: "The fact that Mulryne is at Manchester United helps a great deal. He has been brought up in a big club atmosphere surrounded by quality players under the guidance of the best manager in Britain, in my opinion."

McMenemy claims this opening Championship game will be one of the toughest his side will face in Group Three. "It will be one of our most difficult games in the group, but if we could do well here and in our next two games, which are at home, we could look forward to having a few points in the bag by Christmas," he said.

Kevin Horlock is set to play his first international match in 11 months and Iain Dowie, on his 50th appearance, will lead the side in the absence of the injured Steve Lomas.

Mustafa Denizli, the Turkish coach, has no injury worries but is under pressure as the Turks have lost their last three matches to Albania, Israel and Russia. Denizli has earmarked Dowie as the main threat, along with Keith Gillespie.