Whalley called up

 

Mick McCarthy has turned to an unlikely player with an unlikely club to take Mark Kennedy's place in the squad going to Olomouc for the Republic of Ireland's meeting with the Czech Republic next Wednesday.

Gareth Whalley is unknown to most football supporters on this side of the Irish Sea, and McCarthy, too, may well have been unaware of his skills until advised by the Crewe manager, Dario Gradi, that he should give some consideration to Whalley's claims.

In fact, Whalley, whose mother comes from Dublin, was in the news for a few brief days last season when it was reported that Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, was interested in bringing him to Anfield.

Eventually, Liverpool's interest cooled, but Gradi is among those who believe that the 24-year-old midfielder, born in Manchester and with close on 200 appearances for Crewe to his credit, will eventually made it to a top club.

His qualities of persuasion appear to be considerable, for when Kennedy notified McCarthy that he would be unable to travel because of a damaged finger, the Irish manager remembered his conversation with Gradi and summoned the player to unexpected action in Olomouc.

It means that there are now nine uncapped players in the travelling party, accentuating the fact that this is quite the most inexperienced squad to leave these shores in years. But McCarthy, ever his own man, remains stoically upbeat.

Emphasising that he has only a limited number of opportunities to experiment with fringe players before embarking on his European championship programme in September, he repeated an earlier promise to reward the best of the emerging talent next week.

Depending on the club programme in England this weekend, further changes may be made in the squad. But at this point the manager is confident that he will be able to send a balanced, competitive team into action against the Czechs.

Two members of the squad, Lee Carsley and Rory Delap, will be in action at Terryland Park this evening when Derby County make a rare visit to this country to take on Galway United in an attractive friendly.

Derby's players had a fortnight off before crashing to Leeds United 5-0 last weekend, and with their next Premiership appearance not due until March 28th, manager Jim Smith is determined to ensue that lightning doesn't strike twice.

In the belief that his players can benefit from a game in Galway, he has nominated a strong squad which, in addition to most of the established first team players, contains a couple of highly-rated newcomers.

Galway's manager, Dom O'Riordan, who was on Derby's books when they last played here, in a European fixture against Finn Harps in the 1970s, has plans to introduce an exciting local youth, Alan O'Donnell.

O'Donnell gave substance to his reputation as an outstanding prospect by scoring three times in an under-17 game last Sunday, and is now likely to be rewarded with a place in the front line alongside Fergal Coleman.

The composition of the home defence has yet to be decided, but Harry Costello will again join Billy Clery in the pivotal positions.

Northern Ireland manager Lawrie McMenemy has called up Jamaican-born Ipswich striker David Johnson for next Wednesday's friendly against Slovakia at Windsor Park.