Kerr stays confident of passing Dutch test

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The Independent Online

The Republic of Ireland manager, Brian Kerr, yesterday reflected on the lessons he has learned from watching his side play four matches in the space of just nine days.

The Republic of Ireland manager, Brian Kerr, yesterday reflected on the lessons he has learned from watching his side play four matches in the space of just nine days.

The Irish played Romania at Lansdowne Road on Thursday of last week, before flying to London the following day to compete in the Unity Cup, where they faced Nigeria on Saturday and Jamaica on Wednesday. The run will be completed when they take on the Netherlands at the Amsterdam Arena tonight. Kerr had been hoping to have as many senior players as possible at his disposal in order to help preparations for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign, but injuries and club commitments deprived him of 15 players. Indeed, his initial squad of 26 has since been whittled down to just 20 available for duty against the Dutch.

"I have learnt a lot and some of it has been very positive," Kerr said. "In terms of the goalkeepers, we have used three different ones [Shay Given, Nicky Colgan and Paddy Kenny] and they have done fine, so that has addressed what has been seen as a problem since Dean Kiely retired. In the back four we've used Alan Maybury, who has got a lot of experience he hasn't got in the past, Gary Doherty and Andy O'Brien have played together as a pairing now, while Steve Finnan has more international football under his belt than he's had for a long while.

"In the middle of the pitch people were writing off Mark Kinsella in October but he has played in three of the last four games and played well in two of them - he didn't do so well against Nigeria. Then we have the younger players who have played who wouldn't have got the chance otherwise. We have used 24 out of 26 players over three games and that isn't bad.

"Maybe the negative is that we haven't had the strength in depth I would have hoped for when we took on the series of games, but we have done OK. We have one more tough game to go and then we can all have a break until we play Bulgaria in the friendly in August."

Kerr admitted that facing the Netherlands with a depleted squad represented one of his toughest challenges since taking charge of the national team in 2003, but said he saw it as a "great challenge" rather than something to be afraid of.

"I would like to have had a more senior squad here but we had no control over the withdrawal of players through injury," he said. "Nonetheless it is a big match for us and a great occasion, playing in a great stadium, on a beautiful pitch and playing against undoubtedly one of the best teams in the world.

"We'll give it a good go, and the main concern is we put on the best performance we possibly can and hopefully get a win or, if not, a draw. I wouldn't say we have any fear, rather it is a great challenge for the team and the staff - one of the biggest we have faced, given the youth and inexperience we have in the squad. I think it will be very competitive but we'll be approaching it in the right way."

The Birmingham City striker Clinton Morrison is Ireland's only slight doubt with a sore ankle, but Kerr expects him to recover in time for the game.

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