If the Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy had written down 23 names for the World Cup finals this summer on his return from his side's qualifying play-off success against Iran last November, the list would have been virtually identical to the one he revealed in Dublin yesterday morning. He has been true to himself and the players who helped Ireland qualify, but hard on those youngsters who have emerged in the clutch of friendly matches at Lansdowne Road this year.
Colin Healy, 22, who caught McCarthy's eye after joining Coventry City on loan from Celtic and turned in excellent performances in central midfield against Russia, Denmark and the United States, will be particularly disappointed. He loses out to Everton's Lee Carsley, who has always been in the squad when fit, but played for only 25 minutes of the 12 qualifying matches.
Healy, like the Millwall midfielder Steven Reid, 21, and Tottenham's versatile Gary Doherty, 22, must wait and hope for more of a chance in the European Championship campaign starting next season. Their only consolation yesterday was a personal telephone call of commiseration from the manager, who was also on his mobile to Southampton's Rory Delap and the Hibernian goalkeeper Nicky Colgan.
"Steven Reid and Colin Healy could be considered the most unlucky, but maybe it's a bit soon for them," McCarthy said. "Gary Doherty contributed but sadly had a broken leg. If I thought that by changing the squad I'd have had a better chance of furthering our efforts in the competition, I'd have done it, but I don't think that's the case."
Tottenham's Stephen Carr is the only player unavailable because of injury and McCarthy must now hope there are no unfortunate accidents in the remaining Premiership games or the two Ireland matches before the squad deadline on 21 May – the Republic play against Sunderland in Niall Quinn's testimonial next Tuesday and at home to England's group opponents Nigeria two days later. In particular he will have fingers, toes and everything else crossed that his captain Roy Keane, whose ability and influence is crucial to the side's prospects, is unscathed in Manchester United's collision with Arsenal tonight.
Barring further problems the line-up against Cameroon in Niigata on 1 June could then be expected to read: Given; Finnan, Cunningham (or Breen), Staunton, Harte; McAteer, Roy Keane, Kinsella (or Holland), Kilbane; Robbie Keane, Duff.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND WORLD CUP SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS: Given (Newcastle; Age: 26, Caps: 38, Goals: 0); Kiely (Charlton; 31, 6, 0); A Kelly (Blackburn, 33, 34, 0).
DEFENDERS: G Kelly (Leeds; 27, 45, 2); Harte (Leeds; 24, 39, 8); Staunton (Aston Villa; 33, 97, 8); Finnan (Fulham; 26, 14, 0); Breen (Coventry; 28, 43, 5); Cunningham (Wimbledon, 30, 36, 0); O'Brien (Newcastle; 22, 5, 0); Dunne (Manchester City; 22, 13, 3).
MIDFIELDERS: McAteer (Sunderland; 30, 46, 3); Holland (Ipswich; 27, 18, 3); Roy Keane (Manchester United; 30, 57, 9); Kinsella (Charlton; 29, 27, 3); Duff (Blackburn; 22, 25, 1); Kilbane (Sunderland; 25, 32, 3); Kennedy (Wolves; 26, 34, 3); Carsley (Everton; 28, 19, 0).
FORWARDS: Robbie Keane (Leeds; 21, 32, 10); Quinn (Sunderland; 35, 88, 21); Connolly (Wimbledon; 24, 33, 8); Morrison (Crystal Palace; 23, 7, 2).