Given handed chance by Republic of Ireland

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The Independent Online
Shay Given, the teenage goalkeeper, will be handed his first cap by new Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, against Russia at Lansdowne Road tomorrow.

While Given, 19, embarks on the first steps of an international career, Ally McCoist, the veteran Scottish striker, will join a select band of players who have won 50 caps when he plays against Australia at Hampden Park on the same night.

Given was pulled out of the Irish Under-21 squad after the Sheffield United goalkeeper Alan Kelly announced he had a back injury and McCarthy said: "Shay has impressed me very much in training and I certainly would not be worried about putting him in.''

Given, who started the season as Blackburn's third-choice goalkeeper, is excelling on loan with First Division leaders Sunderland and has kept 11 clean sheets in his last 14 games for the Roker Park club.

McCarthy has been blighted late withdrawals from his 24 man squad. Ray Houghton, Denis Irwin and John Sheridan are the latest casualties following the Liverpool defender Phil Babb and the Portsmouth midfielder Alan McLoughlin.

McCoist becomes the 18th member of the Scottish Football Association's ``Hall of Fame'' for players who have hit the half-century and it will be his first start since breaking his leg in a 5-0 defeat by Portugal three years ago.

Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, insists the selection of McCoist, who will be captain for the night, is not sentimental. Instead, the 33- year-old is playing for a place in the summer's European Championship finals.

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