Duff, his Japan/Korea ’02 attacking partner, Robbie Keane and veteran Jason MacAteer all return for the Republic for the must-win Group 10 qualifiers against Georgia in Tbilisi on March 29 and against Albania in Tirana four days later.
The trio missed Kerr’s first match in charge, an impressive 2-0 victory over Scotland in Glasgow last month, because of injury.
The good news for Kerr is that Duff ended his six-week layoff with an inspiring performance against Arsenal in the English Premier League last Saturday, netting Blackburn[s opener in a 2-0 decision.
The 24-year-old, who was voted onto the UEFA.com users’ Team of the Year for 2002, last played for Ireland in the 2-1 Euro ’04 loss to Switzerland at Lansdowne Road five months ago.
Announcing his 23-man provisional squad on the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) website last Friday, Kerr said: “I spoke to Damien and he is ready to go.”
On McAteer, who could win his first cap since September, Kerr said: “I saw [him] play against Fulham three weeks ago and he looked very fit.”
His selection for his first competitive match since replacing Mick McCarthy as Ireland represents the strongest squad available after the international retirement of controversial ex-skipper Roy Keane.
Ireland are second from the bottom in Group 10, winless and seven points behind leaders Switzerland.
Kerr’s squad: Goalkeepers – Dean Kiely (Charlton), Nick Colgan (Hibernian), Shay Given (Newcastle). Defenders — Stephen Carr (Tottenham), Gary Breen (West Ham), Andy O’Brien (Newcastle), Kenny Cunningham (Birmingham), Gary Kelly, Ian Harte (both Leeds); Steve Finnan (Fulham), John O’Shea (Man Utd.).
Midfielders — Lee Carsley (Everton), Colin Healy (Celtic), Jason McAteer (Sunderland), Mark Kinsella (Aston Villa), Matt Holland (Ipswich), Steven Reid (Millwall), and Kevin Kilbane (Sunderland).
Forwards — Clinton Morrison (Birmingham), Gary Doherty and Robbie Keane (Tottenham), Dave Connolly (Wimbledon), and Damien Duff (Blackburn).