Kerr calls on yougsters as Ireland build for the future

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The Independent Online

Brian Kerr was unrepentant yesterday over his selection policy for last Saturday's Unity Cup match against Nigeria at The Valley. The Ireland manager used the match to give several of his squad players a first taste of senior international football. The inexperienced side lost 3-0 - their heaviest defeat in nine years.

Brian Kerr was unrepentant yesterday over his selection policy for last Saturday's Unity Cup match against Nigeria at The Valley. The Ireland manager used the match to give several of his squad players a first taste of senior international football. The inexperienced side lost 3-0 - their heaviest defeat in nine years.

This came less than 48 hours after Kerr's side beat Romania 1-0 in a friendly at Lansdowne Road, which marked the return of Roy Keane to international football. However, the Manchester United midfielder was not included in the squad for the two Unity Cup matches - the second is against Jamaica tomorrow - or Saturday's trip to face Netherlands in Amsterdam.

The absence of other first-choices through injury - such as Damien Duff - or play-off commitments at their clubs, has meant Kerr turned to some of the younger players.

New recruits include QPR's Martin Rowlands, Clive Clarke of Stoke and Celtic's Aidan McGeady. The Ireland manager believes the experience gained from these matches will be good preparation should he call on them during the World Cup qualifying campaign.

"Martin Rowlands has played in a couple of games and done reasonably well. If we hadn't had this group of games, people like him wouldn't have got the opportunity," reflected Kerr.

"Obviously we are a bit away from what we wanted. I would have liked the balance of the squad to be different, but it will be a young vibrant team.

"Almost all of them have come through the under-age system and for some it has come earlier than we probably would have wanted.

"It would have been better if they were coming in among a group of more experienced players. It is about giving them the chance and trying to get results while we are doing that, but it is not so easy."

Kerr has no qualms about his squad rotation policy, and is looking for an improvement against Jamaica, who lost 2-0 to Nigeria yesterday. "I thought they were a big, strong team," Kerr added. "They are adventurous and will give us a real game. There is just one injury concern after Blackburn midfielder Jonathan Douglas picked up a slight knee injury in training."

Manchester United's John O'Shea is set to return to the defence after being rested on Saturday, but Steve Finnan, Kenny Cunningham, Matt Holland and Robbie Keane all start on the bench. Mark Kinsella will captain the side, while the Hearts defender Alan Maybury is expected to win another cap. Clinton Morrison, the Birmingham striker, is set to come back into the side after being rested against Nigeria.

There could also be debuts for Coventry's Michael Doyle and Nottingham Forest's John Thompson as well as McGeady. The Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny is set to start for the first time, replacing Nicky Colgan in goal for his second cap. "One of the things we needed to do was give goalkeepers other than Shay Given the opportunity to get the confidence required to play at this level," added Kerr.

"Nicky did well overall and made some outstanding saves. In the games he has played for us he has been full of confidence. We have given him some of the experience he needs."

Whatever the result tomorrow, or indeed against Netherlands on Saturday, Kerr feels the end-of-season friendlies will leave Ireland in a stronger position as they prepare to meet the likes of France and Switzerland in their World Cup qualifying group.

"We are trying to develop a system and a pattern of play that uses the players we have to the best of their ability."

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