Duff supplies Kerr with World Cup tonic

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The Independent Football

Brian Kerr, the Republic of Ireland manager, has expressed his relief at seeing Damien Duff back in action ahead of his country's critical World Cup double-header.

Duff looked sharp throughout his second-half appearance in Sunday's 1-0 warm-up win over Celtic at Parkhead for Jackie McNamara's testimonial.

It was the Chelsea winger's second outing in the space of nine days after missing the club's last six matches of the season with a hamstring injury, having played an exhibition match in South Korea against Suwon Bluewings on 20 May.

It was the tonic Kerr needed before Ireland's Group Four games against Israel at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, swiftly followed by a trip to Torshavn to take on the Faroe Islands four days later.

The maximum six points are seen as crucial if Ireland are to head to Germany for next summer's finals and Duff is a pivotal character in that bid.

"Damien has not played much in the last month, but he had a good half yesterday," Kerr said. "He had a bit of a break from the game at the end of the season while his hamstring healed.

"That is something I felt he needed because he was one of the few Chelsea players that played frequently over a long period. When other forwards were out injured he was a constant in the team, so it was a very intense period for him.

"But he played 70 minutes last week and yesterday was also very important for him. In particular in the second half, when they brought on a lot of fresh players after using the basis of their cup-winning team for the first half, it was much livelier and that was good for Damien."

After being given the day off yesterday, the players reconvene in Dublin today when four fresh faces are expected to join the squad.

However, Manchester United's John O'Shea returns after the death of his grandmother on Saturday while the former Leeds left-back Ian Harte arrives after suffering relegation for a second successive season, this time with Spanish side Levante on Sunday.

Steve Finnan is also due to report provided he has recovered from a thigh injury which forced him off at half-time of Liverpool's Champions' League final win against Milan, as is Leicester's Alan Maybury who has been struggling with a back injury.

"Steve will be in tomorrow and it will be easier for us to make a judgement on how he is then," Kerr said. "I'm waiting to hear from Leicester on Alan, but I am hopeful he will be available.

"As for John, he will also be in. Just as he was about to come up with Roy Keane, he called me on Saturday and told me about his grandmother. To be honest, after he and Roy played in the FA Cup final last weekend, it was not as important for them to play yesterday.

"But I got all the others playing, and we needed a match. The players were delighted they had a good blow-out. They commented on that because training is not the same as a game, and it was a decent match. Better that than one where there is messing about.

"That wouldn't have been any use from our point of view. But I never expected that. I expected it to be like it was, and even though it's the end of the season, I've not sensed any tiredness, just great enthusiasm."

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