McCarthy puts Kelly back up front

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The Independent Online
David Kelly must have thought his international days were over. The Sunderland striker was always Jack Charlton's favourite in his days as the Republic of Ireland manager and it seemed that the new man in charge, Mick McCarthy, preferred to look elsewhere for his goals.

But Kelly's form for Sunderland this year has not been overlooked by McCarthy who has picked the 31-year-old to partner Tony Cascarino in the World Cup qualifier against Iceland in Dublin today. Roy Keane and Phil Babb will also make comebacks for their country as McCarthy makes three changes to the side who beat Macedonia 3-0 a month ago.

Kelly is featuring in Peter Reid's Roker Park line-up at the moment only because Niall Quinn, the Republic's first-choice striker, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with knee ligament damage. McCarthy prefers Kelly to Tranmere's John Aldridge, who needs just one goal to equal Frank Stapleton's Irish record of 20 and will again be a substitute today.

Babb returns to the Irish three-man central defence in place of Aston Villa's Steve Staunton who is injured. McCarthy confirmed that Keane will play alongside the Liverpool defender, and has instructions to roam forward as often as possible.

Keane's Manchester United team-mate Denis Irwin switches to the left side of defence to replace Leeds' youngster Ian Harte, who has also recently been dropped from the first team at Elland Road.

McCarthy said: "There have been some difficult decisions to make, but David Kelly is back because he deserves to be back. He has done very well at Sunderland this season and I'm hoping his comeback will be as successful as a few other Irish players' recently.

"I did not want to disturb my midfield trio who did so well against Macedonia. That is one of the reasons why Roy Keane is playing at the back. If he does as well there as I think he will, maybe he'll stay in that position for us for some time to come."

Keane has only played once under McCarthy, when his last-minute dismissal in Ireland's game against Russia in March earned him a suspension for the next match against the Czech Republic. Then, after being picked for the clash with Portugal a month later, he failed to turn up for the match. Time and talks have healed the rift and Keane is looking forward to getting back to the international stage: "I can only hope I get a good reception from the fans because it is a marvellous feeling playing in front of that crowd," he said.

The Macedonia team they beat so conclusively franked the form yesterday when they defeated Liechtenstein 11-1.

Republic of Ireland (v Iceland, World Cup qualifying group eight, Dublin today): A Kelly (Sheffield Utd), Kenna (Blackburn), Breen (Birmingham), Keane (Manchester Utd), Babb (Liverpool), Irwin (Manchester Utd), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), McAteer (Liverpool), Townsend (Aston Villa, capt), D Kelly (Sunderland), Cascarino (Marseille). Subs to be named.