Football: Plum spot for Duff

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DAMIEN DUFF makes his eagerly awaited international debut tonight in one of European football's remotest spots when the Czech Republic play host to the Republic of Ireland in Olomouc. And Mick McCarthy, the Republic of Ireland manager, could not be more pleased.

It was only a matter of time before Duff, the 19-year-old Blackburn Rovers winger, wore the senior green shirt. The Dubliner was the outstanding figure in the youth team's third-place finish in the World Under-18 championship last summer.

"We can all tell Damien's got the lot," McCarthy said. "He's got great first touch, pace, control and finishing ability. But when he made his first appearance for the Irish B side last month he was very disappointed with his performance and he thought it was a lot to do with all the expectations. Let's just give him some space and see how he plays."

McCarthy has picked one of the Republic's youngest teams. The Leeds defender Alan Maybury, also 19, and Charlton midfielder Mark Kinsella, 25, also make their senior debuts. Everton's Gareth Farrelly gets only his fourth cap at 22. "I have never been afraid to give youngsters a chance and this new crop have already impressed me a great deal in training," McCarthy said.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Newcastle), Maybury (Leeds), Kenna (Blackburn), Breen (Coventry), Cunningham (Wimbledon, capt), Kinsella (Charlton), Carsley (Derby), Farrelly (Everton), G Kelly (Leeds), Connolly (Feyenoord), Duff (Blackburn).