Football: O'Neill wins Republic recall

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THE MIDDLESBROUGH-BOUND striker, Keith O'Neill, has been recalled to the Republic of Ireland squad for the Group Eight European Championship qualifying tie with Macedonia in Skopje on 27 March. The Irish manager, Mick McCarthy, has also called up the uncapped Spurs defender Stephen Carr to his 20-man travelling squad.

O'Neill, on the brink of leaving Norwich for Middlesbrough for pounds 700,000, missed the 2-0 victory over Paraguay in Dublin on 10 February because of an ankle injury. Carr gets his chance because of injuries which rule out Gary Kelly, Curtis Fleming, Jeff Kenna and Rory Delap.

McCarthy will be anxious that there is no repeat of the shock 3-2 defeat by the Macedonians in Skopje in a World Cup qualifier in April 1997. "That result doesn't matter now. We didn't do ourselves justice that day," said McCarthy. "It's a huge game for us and vitally important. Yugoslavia play Croatia on the same night in another Group Eight game. But I won't be concerned about that result if we can win in Macedonia.

"Three points has to be the priority against the Macedonians, or at least not be beaten."

McCarthy has put the Bury goalkeeper Dean Kiely, Bradford's midfielder Gareth Whalley, the Wimbledon winger Mark Kennedy and Fulham's Steve Finnan on standby in case of injuries.

The Liverpool defender Steve Staunton will be able to take his place in the travelling party having recovered from a back injury suffered in Saturday's 3-2 defeat by Derby.

The Northern Ireland manager, Lawrie McMenemy, has called up the Bournemouth striker Stephen Robinson and Chesterfield's defender Mark Williams for the games against Germany and Moldova.

Robinson, who has been linked with a move to Fulham, is the latest player to be tried to answer Northern Ireland's goal famine.

McMenemy said of Robinson: "We are always in the market for a goalscorer. Stephen has shown that he has the knack in this area. He is in the squad along with Iain Dowie and James Quinn and we'll take it from there."

For Williams, 28, the international call has come late after a solid performance in the B international against Wales last month. McMenemy said: "Mark gave an impressive and disciplined show in that game. We were sufficiently impressed to have no hesitation in promoting him to the senior squad for these games."

The Reading centre-back Barry Hunter, who has been on loan at Southend, is recalled to the squad. He has had an appalling 12 months with injury but is now well on the road to recovery.

Also included is the Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Danny Sonner, but there is no place for his club-mate Jim Magilton. Also omitted is the Leicester centre-back Gerry Taggart, who, like Magilton, has been included in the standby panel.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND SQUAD (for European Championship Qualifying Group Eight match against Macedonia in Skopje, 27 March): Given (Newcastle), Kelly (Sheff Utd), Irwin (Man Utd), Carr (Tottenham), Harte (Leeds), Staunton (Liverpool), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Breen (Coventry), Babb (Liverpool), Keane (Man Utd), McAteer (Blackburn), Kinsella (Charlton), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), Carsley (Derby), Duff (Blackburn), Quinn (Sunderland), Cascarino (Nancy), Keane (Wolves), O'Neill (Norwich), Connolly (Wolves).

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD (to face Germany in the European Championship qualifier at Windsor Park, Belfast, 27 March): Taylor (Fulham), Fettis (Blackburn), Hughes (Newcastle), Williams (Chesterfield), Morrow (QPR), Patterson (Dundee Utd), Hill (Northampton), Horlock (Man City), Kennedy (Watford), Rowland (QPR), Hunter (Reading), Whitley (Man City), Gillespie (Blackburn), McCarthy (Birmingham), Lomas (West Ham), Sonner (Sheff Wed), Lennon (Leicester), Hughes (Wimbledon), Dowie (QPR), Quinn (West Brom), Robinson (Bournemouth).