By Mark Jones
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy will be looking to the striking partnership of Niall Quinn and Robbie Keane to lead the way in today’s, Wednesday’s, European championship qualifying game against Malta at Lansdowne Road.
Following the postponement of last weekend’s game against Yugoslavia due to unrest in the province of Kosovo, the Irish will be looking to build on their impressive 2-0 victory over Croatia a month ago.
The Maltese were beaten 4-1 by Croatia, so McCarthy is entitled to expect a few goals from the highly experienced Quinn and his teenage sidekick Keane.
However, McCarthy will be planning without the injured Denis Irwin and Phil Babb, so Jeff Kenna and Gary Breen are likely to come into the team.
Elsewhere, Ireland are at full strength with Roy Keane once again captaining the side.
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"Of course we expect to win, but that doesn’t mean we’ll throw caution to the wind," McCarthy said. "Malta will not be easy to break down."
Thirteen years ago, the Republic of Ireland beat Malta 8-0 in a European Championship game at Dalymount Park. It was Ireland’s record win at international level and one of the best ever Irish results under former manager Eoin Hand.
In Jack Charlton’s reign the Irish played Malta three times, winning both competitive games 2-0 and a friendly 3-0 in Valetta.
Meanwhile, defender Kenny Cunningham won the award for International Player of the Year, while the precocious Robbie Keane not surprisingly took the Young Player award.
(Sean Creedon contributed to this story)