McCarthy eager to get started

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The Independent Online

reports from Dublin

Apart from the beginning - a 1-0 defeat by Wales in Dublin 10 years ago today - and the end when the timing and nature of his departure was bungled and painful, it was a happy decade for Jack Charlton.

Happy for the Irish too, with the renaissance of a football nation that had always offered talented individuals but rarely a team worth crossing the Liffey to watch, much less the Irish Sea.

Now it is the turn of Mick McCarthy, Charlton's successor and often his field marshal during his 57 games for the Republic, who will clearly be his own man.

Heavy rain yesterday forced McCarthy to abandon training at Lansdowne Road, where tonight his team face Russia in a friendly which is a 46,000 sellout. He did, however, name his first team yesterday, officially unveiling a new formation, a new regime, fresh hope.

Liverpool's Mark Kennedy, who is not yet 20, wins his fourth cap in midfield and goalkeeper Shay Given of Blackburn Rovers, who is currently on loan to Sunderland and playing a vital part in their promotion push, wins his first.

"If ever there is a time to play someone, it's when he is playing as well as he possibly can and Given looks a very good keeper," McCarthy said, resisting the temptation to return to the old guard of Pat Bonner.

He later singled out Kennedy for a particularly interesting and challenging job. "I want Mark to play a role similar to his team-mate Steve McManaman at Liverpool. I want him to work hard in midfield, be creative and support the front two. We've worked and laughed and the players know what I want from them.

"I have made my mind up some time ago about how I want us to play. The Russians look good and have talented individuals, but they might find our system might not suit them. People will want to see what changes I have made and to watch a very good Russian team. I can't wait to get started."

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (v Russia, Lansdowne Road, tonight): Given (Blackburn Rovers), McGrath (Aston Villa), Kernaghan (Manchester City), Staunton (Aston Villa), McAteer (Liverpool), Townsend (Aston Villa, capt), Keane (Manchester United), Kennedy (Liverpool), Phelan (Chelsea), Quinn (Manchester City), Aldridge (Tranmere Rovers).