Gillespie fit for 15th international season

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The Independent Football

Keith Gillespie has shaken off an ankle injury and is ready to launch into a remarkable 15th season wearing the colours of Northern Ireland. The Sheffield United winger looks set to win his 82nd cap against Slovakia here today in a World Cup qualifier now his fitness is not in question.

Gillespie won his first cap against Portugal almost 14 years ago to the day and still gets a thrill representing his country. "It is pretty easy to maintain my enthusiasm for Northern Ireland. Anyone who pulls on the green shirt is proud to do so," he said. "I just want to play for my country as long as I can. I have had a frustrating month with the injury but I am over it now."

Northern Ireland are aiming to kick on after finishing a creditable third in their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. With the Czech Republic next up in Belfast on Wednesday, Gillespie added: "It is important we get off to a good start. That is a must."

Northern Ireland (probable, 4-4-2): Taylor (Birmingham City); Baird, Hughes (both Fulham), Evans (Manchester United), McCartney (Sunderland); Davis (Rangers), Brunt (West Bromwich Albion), Clinigan (Norwich), Gillespie (Sheffield United); Healy (Sunderland), Feeney (Dundee United).

Also in Group Three Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, San Marino.