Irish turn to Duff to provide attacking spark

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The Independent Online

It should put into context the task the Republic of Ireland face tonight that the Faroe Islands have lost one of their star players because he has a university exam. Not for Jon Roi Jacobsen, a central defender, the usual roll call of groin strain or suspension. Instead the 22-year-old has returned to the Danish mainland to continue his studies.

It should put into context the task the Republic of Ireland face tonight that the Faroe Islands have lost one of their star players because he has a university exam. Not for Jon Roi Jacobsen, a central defender, the usual roll call of groin strain or suspension. Instead the 22-year-old has returned to the Danish mainland to continue his studies.

Nevertheless there is no getting away from the fact that the Irish have a test to face themselves. Anything short of victory in this Group Four qualifier for next year's World Cup would be catastrophic - not just to their hopes but also to the diminishing goodwill towards manager Brian Kerr. That took a hammering after last weekend's tumultuous draw with Israel.

Given the month it's no surprise Kerr is battling with injury, suspension and fatigue among his squad. But with a team exclusively drawn from the Premiership he should be able to overcome one with only six full or part-timers.

Ireland will have to do without Robbie Keane and there was alarm yesterday when his strike partner Clinton Morrison left training in pain. If he doesn't make it, Kerr will throw on Gary Doherty with fears that this may lead to a Route One bombardment, suiting the physical Faroese.

How Ireland need Damien Duff. The Chelsea player will, it appears, start as a striker and he knows that with just six goals in 53 appearances he is "due" another. "I don't think I've scored in over 10 games but I'm still contributing," Duff said. "I would have a long hard look at myself if I wasn't doing either." The 26-year-old was refreshingly clear in saying there were no excuses. "Whatever the result you won't hear me or any of the lads complain about the pitch," he said. "France and Switzerland have won here so I don't see any reason why we can't."

Without Keane the onus is even more on Duff to provide "that luck or magic" to gain the three points Ireland are desperate for. He will draw on recent experience. "Teams come to Chelsea and it's a cup final," Duff said. "But being in the Chelsea camp all year every game is like a cup final for us."

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (probable 4-4-2): Given; Carr (both Newcastle Utd); O'Shea (Man Utd), Cunningham (Birmingham), Harte (Levante); Reid (Tottenham), Keane (Man Utd), Holland (Charlton), Kilbane (Everton); Duff

(Chelsea), Morrison (Birmingham City).

FAROE ISLANDS (probable 4-5-1): Mikkelsen (B36 Torshavn); Danielsen (KI Klakksvik), Johannesen (TB Tvoroyri), Hansen (Horsens BK), Olsen (GI Gota); Borg (HB Torshavn), Johnsson (B68 Toftir), Jacobsen (KR), Benjaminsen (B36 Torshavn), Jorgensen (Coventry City); Flotum (Fremad Amager).

Referee: A Genov (Bulgaria).

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