Football: Turks to play on depsite another quake

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AFTER INITIALLY being told that next Wednesday's second leg of the European Championship against Turkey would go ahead as scheduled in Bursa, the Republic of Ireland's plans were thrown into familiar confusion last night by a second earthquake in the country on successive days.

Yesterday Ray Treacy, the former Charlton and Swindon striker who now organises the Republic's travel, reported back from Turkey that earth tremors in the region on Thursday night were nothing more than after-shock from the serious earthquake in August that cost 17,000 lives. But last night there were more fatalities after a quake to the east of Istanbul registering 6.5 on the Richter Scale.

Bernard O'Byrne, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, said: "We have been in contact with Uefa and Fifa and we're monitoring the situation. That's all we can do at the moment."

The Irish party and their supporters are due to pass through Istanbul on their convoluted journey to and from Bursa, which is two-and-a-half hours to the south. Having being forced to play qualifying matches in Belgrade, Zagreb and Skopje, two of which were originally postponed, because of the conflict in the Balkans, they are used to taking each game as it comes, but will not be prepared to take any unnecessary risks.

The Turkish chef de mission, Can Covanoglu, said: "Naturally, our players are very sad to hear this latest news. But they feel they have to carry on with the matches even though it is very difficult. There's no danger in Bursa. It's a long way from Istanbul."

Earlier, Mick McCarthy had named an attacking team in the hope of securing an advantage to take into the second match, with Derby County's Rory Delap and West Bromwich Albion's Kevin Kilbane as his wide midfielders. If Kilbane was the obvious replacement for the injured Mark Kennedy on the left, Delap needs to justify the manager's faith on his first appearance since a friendly against Mexico 18 months ago.

The other changes from a side that was 12 seconds away from qualification last month before conceding an equaliser to Macedonia, are as expected. With Steve Staunton and Ian Harte injured, Denis Irwin switches to left- back, Stephen Carr comes in on the right, Lee Carsley replaces Mark Kinsella, who is suspended for one game, and - most important of all - Roy Keane returns. The inspirational Manchester United and Ireland captain has missed six of his country's last seven games and it is probable that had he been available for the critical trips to Macedonia and Croatia - where the Irish also fell apart in the last few moments - they would have qualified automatically.

Given their performances at home to teams like Croatia and Yugoslavia, both of whom were beaten at Lansdowne Road, there are further persuasive reasons for believing that Ireland should have avoided what seems certain to be a difficult double header against one of the most improved footballing nations in Europe.

The professional view was put yesterday by Wimbledon's Kenny Cunningham, who said: "We didn't do enough, that's what the league table tells us. But there's a quiet determination to put the record straight."

The record in question includes losing a World Cup play-off two years ago, after allowing Belgium an away goal and then having David Connolly sent off in the return. As four of this afternoon's squad are on a yellow card, discipline will be important in every sense. "We don't want to see an away goal," McCarthy said. "But we can't set up a negative approach. I'll settle for any victory."

That will not be easy. Turkey are no longer the sort of team that Ireland used to cruise past, when McCarthy was captain rather than coach. After qualifying for Euro 96 but failing to score a goal, Turkey would have won their group ahead of Germany this time but for suffering unexpectedly their only defeat at home to Finland.

The squad includes nine players from Galatasaray, who frightened Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Champions' League this season before subsiding to a 5-0 defeat at home. If there is a weakness, that result in Istanbul against Turkey's leading club side illustrates it: a tendency to become discouraged too easily when things go against them.