McCarthy gives youth a chance

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The Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, yesterday named only four of the players from the side held to a goalless draw by Liechtenstein 14 months ago for today's return match in a World Cup qualifier in Eschen.

McCarthy, who took over from Jack Charlton last March, is pushing the squad into a new era and includes several of the youngsters awarded their first caps at the end of last season and during the summer tour of America.

Blackburn's reserve goalkeeper Shay Given is preferred to Sheffield United's fit-again Alan Kelly, while Norwich's Keith O'Neill will partner Niall Quinn up front and Leeds United's Ian Harte plays on the left side of midfield on his 19th birthday.

McCarthy has left out Liverpool's pounds 3.6m defender Phil Babb and Blackburn's pounds 1.5m midfielder Jeff Kenna. But veterans Ray Houghton and Andy Townsend return to the side along with Portsmouth's Alan McLoughlin whose late goal put the Republic into the World Cup finals of 1994.

"I have faced several hard decisions this week before my first World Cup match as manager," McCarthy said. "Whether we qualify or not we will feel the benefit of the experience these new players will gain."

Ireland's goalless draw in Liechtenstein in June last year effectively stopped them qualifying for Euro 96, but they should make comfortable amends for that result this time

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (v Liechtenstein, World Cup qualifier, Eschen today): Given (Blackburn); Irwin (Manchester Utd), Breen (Birmingham), Staunton (Aston Villa), McAteer (Liverpool), Houghton (Crystal Palace), Townsend (Aston Villa, capt), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), Harte (Leeds Utd), Quinn (Sunderland), O'Neill (Norwich).

n The Northern Ireland manager Bryan Hamilton is expected to field the nucleus of the team that drew 1-1 with Germany in May for today's opening World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine at Windsor Park.