McCarthy recalls Kenna to Ireland squad

 

Jeff Kenna returns to the Republic of Ireland set-up for the first time in almost three years for the 2004 European Championship qualifier against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road tomorrow week.

The Birmingham City defender has been drafted in by manager Mick McCarthy as cover for the injured Steve Carr and Steve Finnan. But he is unlikely to start as McCarthy is expected to call upon Leeds United's Gary Kelly to fill the right-back berth.

Kenna, who last featured in the second leg of the Euro 2000 championship play-off against Turkey in Bursa in November 1999, has recaptured his best form with Birmingham following his permanent transfer from Blackburn in February.

"Jeff's been doing well . . . he has had difficulties with his Achilles . . . but he has done well recently . . . he has got back playing and really stuck at it," McCarthy said.

Newcastle United defender Andy O'Brien returns, having missed the Finland friendly in August and the Group 10 opening defeat to Russia last month with shin splints. But McCarthy warned that there is still a "slight doubt" over the centre back's fitness.

"Andy has hamstring trouble. I spoke with his manager Bobby Robson and we will just have to monitor his progress," he said.

John O'Shea's recall to the senior squad was expected, but the Manchester United youngster is not expected to start as McCarthy again put his faith in regular central defensive pairing Kenny Cunningham and Gary Breen.

"Kenny and Gary have been absolutely outstanding for me," he said. "As a back four in Russia we were not very good but that does not constitute being axed and until I see something different things will not be changed.

"John [O'Shea] has done well for Manchester United after coming through the reserves last year. The lads who are playing in my squad will know when they are being pushed [for places] so it's my decision based on what I see," he said.

McCarthy, who will travel to see Switzerland play Albania in Tirana on Saturday, described the 4-2 defeat to Russia last month as "a bad day" and said there was something of a "shadow hanging over the team" since the game.

But he is focused and "confident" about facing the Swiss next week. "I want to see people up for the Swiss game. . . . We need to be on the front foot and go into the game with the right frame of mind. The players were all disappointed after Russia. They knew they played below standard and can play better".

Jason McAteer (stomach injury) has not played for Sunderland since their derby defeat to Newcastle United and has not been selected. He should return for the club's league game against West Ham on Saturday week.

The Ireland squad will assemble in Dublin on Sunday morning before training that afternoon in Baldonnel.

Republic of Ireland:

Goalkeepers:Shay Given (Newcastle United), Dean Kiely (Charlton Athletic), Nick Colgan (Hibernian)

Defenders:Ian Harte (Leeds United), Gary Breen (West Ham United), Gary Kelly (Leeds United), Jeff Kenna (Birmingham City), Kenny Cunningham (Birmingham City), John O'Shea (Manchester United), Andy O'Brien (Newcastle United), Phil Babb (Sunderland)

Midfielders:Matt Holland (Ipswich Town), Colin Healy (Celtic), Mark Kinsella (Aston Villa), Lee Carsley (Everton), Delap (Southampton), Stephen McPhail (Leeds United)

Forwards:Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur), Clinton Morrison (Birmingham City), Kevin Kilbane (Sunderland), Damian Duff (Blackburn Rovers), Gary Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur).