Football: O'Neill wins Republic recall

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," McCarthy said. "This a huge game and vitally important. Yugoslavia play Croatia on the same night in another Group Eight game. Three points has to be the priority against the Macedonians."

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: "We are always in the market for a goalscorer. Stephen has shown that he has the knack."

For Williams, 28, the international call has come late after a solid performance in the B international against Wales last month.

The Reading centre-back Barry Hunter, who has been on loan at Southend, is recalled to the squad after an appalling run of injuries of the last 12 months. He is now well on the road to recovery, however.

The Wales manager, Bobby Gould, is praying that Ryan Giggs comes through his two big games for Manchester United this week so that he can make his comeback in his country's crucial Euro 2000 qualifier in Switzerland on 31 March.

Giggs, in action against Internazionale tonight and Everton in the Premiership on Sunday, played in Wales' opening Group One fixture against Italy in September, a 2-0 defeat at Anfield. But the United player was ruled out through injury from the two victories in Denmark and at home to Belarus which have given Wales a genuine chance of qualifying for their first major finals since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND SQUAD (European Championship Qualifying Group Eight, v Macedonia, 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 (European Championship Qualifying Group Three, v Germany, Windsor Park, Belfast, 27 March): Taylor (Fulham), Fettis (Blackburn), Hughes (Newcastle), Williams (Chesterfield), Patterson (Dundee Utd), Hill (Northampton), Horlock (Man City), Kennedy (Watford), Morrow, Rowland (both 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).

WALES SQUAD (European Championship Qualifying Group One, v Switzerland, Zurich, 31 March): Jones (Southampton), Ward (Notts County), Crossley (Nottm Forest), Robinson (Charlton), Jenkins (Huddersfield), Barnard (Barnsley), Trollope, Symons, Coleman (all Fulham), Melville (Sunderland), Williams (Wolves), Johnson (Nottm Forest), Savage (Leicester), Speed (Newcastle), Hughes (Southampton), Pembridge, Saunders (both Benfica), Blake (Blackburn), Hartson (Wimbledon), Giggs (Man Utd), Bellamy (Norwich).

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