Since taking over from Jack Charlton, McCarthy has completely rebuilt the side, bringing in a crop of youngsters whom he hopes can continue 10 years of unprecedented Irish success. International novices such Gary Breen, Keith O'Neill and Ian Harte have come of age. But the fans in Dublin will demand first-hand proof that the upheaval has been worthwhile.
Ireland won 5-0 against Liechtenstein in Vaduz, but Macedonia will provide more unpredictable opposition at Lansdowne Road.
McCarthy has refused to write off the Macedonians, saying: "I don't know very much about them. The only time I have been able to watch them was when they played Iceland in a gale. Although they looked technically sound and hard-working, it was not a day to make considered judgements. But they drew in Iceland and beat Liechtenstein 3-0. So, for all I know, they could be real challengers."
With Roy Keane, Ray Houghton and Niall Quinn injured and unable to play, McCarthy will not name his team until just before the kick-off. But Breen passed a fitness test on a sore shin and looks set to earn his eighth cap in the heart of defence. Quinn's absence has forced McCarthy to recall John Aldridge, who is the favourite to partner O'Neill in attack.Reuse content