McCarthy down to bare bones for Dutch mission
During the build up to the Croatia game a little over a week or so, Mick McCarthy made it abundantly clear that, whatever experimentation he might embark upon for a friendly game, he would opt for experience when it came time to face the Dutch.
That Andy O'Brien, Steven Reid and Clinton Morrison, three players with four caps between them, have retained their places in the senior squad announced for the game yesterday then, can safely be taken as confirmation that McCarthy heads into next weekend's game knowing his options have been whittled down to all but nothing.
Morrison did well last week and has made a flying start to the new campaign with Crystal Palace while neither O'Brien nor Reid did anything to worry about in terms of their longer term international prospects, but the fact remains that McCarthy would not be depriving Don Givens of their services next week if he had any real choice in the matter.
This weekend, he says, he will be "keeping an eye," on the programme of matches being played in the premiership and English league and, "hoping that nobody else picks up any knocks". One suspects that wherever it is that he chooses to base himself while he surveys the weekend's events, he'll have a fairly stiff drink ready and waiting just in case.
Yesterday's announcement is final confirmation that Mark Kinsella, Kenny Cunningham, Gary Breen and Steve Carr will miss next week's vital World Cup qualifier, news that McCarthy has had plenty of time to come to terms with. Should Roy Keane, Ian Harte or either one of his centre halves pick up a bad knock this weekend, though, it is difficult to imagine how the Ireland manager might hope to paper over the cracks when Louis van Gaal's star studded outfit have to be faced up to at Lansdowne Road this Saturday week.
There is good news, at least, in the inclusion of Niall Quinn and Matt Holland, both of whom return after missing the Croatia game with minor injuries. Both will presumably start the game against Holland if fit although Quinn's progress over the coming weekend will probably be one of the things McCarthy pays particular attention to.
Harte too, will be a major concern for while the Leeds left back is not particularly prone to injury his loss would be a severe blow at a time when the most obvious cover available to McCarthy, Steve Staunton, is required to provide experience in the centre of defence.
Likewise the back up for the central defensive partnership looks terribly thin ahead of such an important game with neither Gary Doherty nor Andy O'Brien even having started a competitive game for their country in that position.
Somewhat inevitably, though, McCarthy was obliged to look on the bright side yesterday, observing simply that he was pleased with the way the new lads had performed last week when, he said, "they proved that they can do a job for me against the Dutch".
With regard to the injuries the Ireland manager said that he had been monitoring everybody's fitness closely with Carr the last to be ruled out after McCarthy spoke to him on Tuesday. "I'd been in touch with the club a lot so when he filled me in on the situation he wasn't telling me anything I didn't know."
While Morrison's inclusion is at the expense of the equally inexperienced Glen Crowe, a possible alternative to O'Brien might have been the erratic but somewhat more seasoned Phil Babb. Reid's selection, though, is probably the greatest surprise as the squad is not exactly short of players capable of playing in wide midfield positions and McCarthy has, at the same time, opted to return a creative central midfielder, with a reasonable amount of experience at a higher level of the club game, Stephen McPhail, to Given's under- 21s.
Also back there is John O'Shea while Givens has included, in Andy Reid, Barry Roche and Keith Foy, three of the crop of Irish youngster currently emerging at Nottingham Forest.