Kerr ends Connolly's isolation with World Cup qualifier place

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Despite 40 caps to his name, Connolly has not played for Ireland since the country's devastating 2-0 European Championship qualifying defeat to Switzerland in October 2003.

The Wigan forward was one of the fall guys for Ireland's failure to reach the subsequent finals in Portugal, earning his last call-up just under a year ago, only to withdraw through injury.

But following a recent £2m deadline-day move from Leicester, Connolly is in form and has scored five goals in his first six matches this season.

Kerr is without the suspended Clinton Morrison for the game against Cyprus in Nicosia, while Tottenham's Robbie Keane and Sunderland's Stephen Elliott are both short of goals and match time this season.

Connolly recently expressed his disappointment at failing to figure in Kerr's World Cup plans, and the manager responded: "Players always feel hard done by if they are not in the squad. But he has always been in our thoughts.

"He had a decent season last year with Leicester, and I have good reports on him because he has made a bright start and looks like his old self." Kerr has also handed a debut squad appearance for Reading's Kevin Doyle, who has made a superb impact in the Championship this season following his £80,000 move from the League of Ireland side Cork City.

"I've watched Kevin at various levels and I've seen him this season for Reading," Kerr added. "He has maintained a high level of performance. We don't have too many centre-forwards in the squad, and as to whether he plays, I will see how he does in the next couple of matches for Reading."

The Tottenham winger Andy Reid is suspended for the Cypriot game, while crucially, Roy Keane, the Manchester United midfielder, misses both games after breaking a metatarsal bone in his left foot.