By Jay Mwamba
Coach: Mick McCarthy
At age 43, McCarthy will be one of the youngest coaches at the finals. He captained Ireland at Italia ’90, and retired with 57 caps. McCarthy, whose playing career started with his hometown club Barnsley in the old English fourth division, was a standout defender for Manchester City; Celtic, with whom he won the Scottish league and cup double in his first season; French side Lyon and Millwall. First capped by Eoin Hand in 1984, he was instrumental in the Republic’s emergence as a European power under Jack Charlton in the late 1980s and early ’90s. McCarthy played in Euro ’88, Ireland’s first and only European Championship appearance to date, and led the Irish to an impressive quarterfinal run in the 1990 World Cup finals. He stepped into Charlton’s massive shoes as Irish boss in February 1996 and despite playing well, the mythical luck of the Irish eluded his squad in close playoff failures to reach France ’98 and Euro ‘2000. The Japan/Korea ’02 qualifiers, however, proved to be a charm as Ireland held its own against Holland and Portugal in their qualifying group, to finish undefeated and behind the latter only on goal difference. McCarthy guided Ireland past Iran in the playoffs to book his coaching debut in the finals.
Shay Given (Newcastle United)
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First choice for Ireland and Newcastle and is widely regarded as one of the best goalies in the world. Born in Lifford, Given started his career with Celtic, before moving on to Blackburn Rovers. Earned his first cap in McCarthy’s first game in charge against Russia in 1996. Became number one for both the Republic and Newcastle in 2001.
Alan Kelly (Blackburn Rovers)
From a long goalkeeping tradition — dad Alan Sr. played for Ireland and brother Gary is the Irish “B” shot-stopper — Kelly was Packie Bonner’s understudy at USA ’94 and will provide able cover for Given in Asia. Lack of first team action for Rovers, initially because of injury has hurt his career at both club and international level. Kelly debuted under Charlton in 1993 and was first choice in the Euro ’96 qualifiers.
Dean Kiely (Charlton Athletic)
Probably Charlton’s best player, Kiely is statistically the best goalkeeper in the English Premiership, having made more saves than any other goalie in the recent season. Late but impressive bloomer who made his debut as a second half replacement for Alan Kelly during Ireland’s Euro 2000 playoff with Turkey at Lansdowne Road. Only injuries and brilliant form of Given have stopped him from adding to his current six cap tally.
Gary Breen (Coventry City)
Lanky defender with goal scoring touch who evokes memories of David O’Leary with his composed play. First capped against Portugal in 1996 and now starter at center back. Breen was in stellar form in the qualifiers and should be a defensive anchor in the finals. Captains Coventry City, whom he joined in 1996, in the English First Division.
Kenny Cunningham (Wimbledon)
Injuries in last couple of years have limited Cunningham’s appearances. The versatile defender is still one of Ireland’s most experienced players, with 71 caps under his belt. Plays at right back for club, but as a center half for his country. The Dubliner is a McCarthy protTgTe of sorts from latter’s Millwall days, where he molded Cunningham into of the best defenders in First Division. Won first cap against Czech Republic in 1996.
Richard Dunne (Manchester City)
Member of victorious Irish squad that lifted European Under-18 title in 1997. Dunne was called up by McCarthy that same year but did not make his debut until friendly against Greece in 2000. He was a key in the Republic’s qualification for the finals. Dublin native once known as the “The Honey Monster” as teenager at Everton because of his physique.
Steve Finnan (Fulham)
Limerick-born but raised in England, Finnan has shone for Ireland since first appearance against Greece in 2000. Plays well at both right back, where he’s McCarthy’s first choice, and in midfield. Remembered for setting up Jason McAteer’s killer goal against the Dutch in Dublin that put Ireland on path to Asia. Former “B” international previously with Birmingham and Notts County.
Ian Harte (Leeds United)
Cut his teeth in qualifying campaign and now the Republic’s designated free-kick specialist and penalty taker. Only player to play every minute on the road to Japan, and this after first dropping off McCarthy’s radar. First capped in 1996 against Croatia but later forgotten when club form dipped. Has a kinsman in Irish squad, in uncle Gary Kelly, fellow Leeds international.
Gary Kelly (Leeds United)
Young veteran of McCarthy’s squad. Kelly was a boyish 19 when he excelled at USA ’94 and has been a familiar face in the Irish team, injury permitting, since. The Drogheda-born defender began as a forward for Home Farm but was converted to a fullback after joining Leeds. Classical fullback with pace and good crossing ability. Also tracks back well. Sometimes plays on right midfield.
Andy O’Brien (Newcastle United)
O’Brien picked Ireland over England for his international career and was rewarded for his discretion by his selection to the Irish U-21 side. Picked for the senior squad by McCarthy in the summer of 2001and made debut as a sub in World Cup tie against Estonia. Smart and tenacious defender likely to start on the bench in Japan.
Stephen Staunton (Aston Villa)
Staunton ranks only behind Roy Keane in influence in the squad. The 14-year veteran is on course to become the first Irish player to win 100 caps. That could happen in Japan if Ireland progress to the second round. Debuted in 1988 against Tunisia and featured as left back at Italia ’90. Later pushed up to midfield. Now likely to feature at center back. Former Dundalk and Liverpool hero.
Lee Carsley (Everton)
Carsley a regular squad member since 1997 first cap against Romania, albeit rarely off the bench as his 18 caps attest. Balding, bustling heavy-set defensive midfielder who ended season for Everton with thunderous goal in 4-2 loss to Arsenal last Saturday. Yet to score for Republic for whom he made only one appearance in the qualifiers — in playoff tussle away to Iran.
Matt Holland (Ipswich)
Holland was first capped as a sub against Macedonia in 1999 but did not earn status as a starter until after scoring superb goal against Portugal in October 2000. As a midfielder, initially subject to pecking order determined by availability of Mark Kinsella and Roy Keane. Now regarded as by some as logical partner for Keano.
Roy Keane (Manchester United)
Cork legend is recognized as only bona fide world-class star in the Irish squad. Carries his nation’s hopes in his boots. Captain of Ireland and Manchester United is fierce and emotional battler who plays end to end. Keane is back in the finals after testing waters at USA ’94. Barring injury, should provide the spark to get Ireland into Round of 16.
Mark Kennedy (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Born: Height 5-11
Born on May 15, 1976, Kennedy turns 26 today and could celebrate by winning his 35th cap against Nigeria tomorrow. The left-winger is another one of McCarthy’s products from his Millwall days. Capped by Ireland as a teenager in 1996 but failed to live up to expectations. Kennedy rediscovered his form with Manchester City in 1999 and later joined Wolves.
Kevin Kilbane (Sunderland)
Ireland’s left winger of choice, Kilbane first caught McCarthy’s eye in 1997 and was promptly capped against Iceland. Made real impact 18 months later in Dublin against Sweden with his penetrating runs. His performance earned him regular place in squad for Euro 2000 and World Cup qualifiers.
Mark Kinsella (Charlton Athletic)
Kinsella picked up Andy Townsend’s mantle in midfield rather flawlessly. Won first cap in 1998 against the Czech Republic and a permanent fixture since. Kinsella started his career in Dublin with Home Farm and once drew interest from Barcelona as an Irish U-21 star. Captains Charlton, whom he joined in 1996. Complements Keane’s leadership in squad.
Jason McAteer (Sunderland)
Another young veteran in McCarthy’s side, and survivor from Ireland’s USA ’94 squad. McAteer effectively put the Republic in the finals with his stunning winner against star-studded Holland at Lansdowne Road last October. McAteer, who spurned a soccer scholarship in the United States to try his luck with Bolton Wanderers, made his debut together with Gary Kelly for Ireland against Russia in 1994.
David Connolly (Wimbledon)
Exciting little forward whose continental skill landed him on the books of Dutch sides Feyenoord and Excelsior. Was top scorer at Excelsior for two seasons before moving to Wimbledon in 2001. Still yet to win a regular spot in McCarthy’s squad. Connolly has the ability to score and create chances for others.
Damien Duff (Blackburn Rovers)
Duff’s form this season has earned him rave reviews in the English Premiership, as well as the interest of Manchester United, where he may team up with Keano, and Liverpool. The impish winger is hailed as the next big star of Irish soccer. Could be one of the surprises of the finals. Debuted against the Czech Republic in 1998, but he didn’t establish himself in the starting 11 until last year. Played a blinder in Dublin win over Russia this year.
Robbie Keane (Leeds United)
The other Keane was an almost instant sensation on the international scene when he made his debut as a teenager against the Czech Republic in 1998. Had a stint with Inter Milan before returning north to join Leeds. Big, strong lad, who’s a throwback to center forward’s of old. Good in the air, quick and has a powerful shot in either foot. He provided the insurance goal against Iran in the first leg of the playoff.
Clinton Morrison (Crystal Palace)
Morrison, who turned 23 yesterday, had the option of playing Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jamaica, but he went with the green. He came through the Under-21 ranks where he was first capped against Portugal in June 2001. Two months later, he scored on his senior debut against Croatia. Morrison is rated as one of the top strikers in the English First Division.
Niall Quinn (Sunderland)
This ageless giant and Irish favorite has been a member of the national team for 16 years and will enjoy his swan song in Asia. Quinn broke Frank Stapleton’s all-time scoring record for the Republic against Cyprus toward the end of the qualifiers and will be a formidable ‘rial threat in Group E if he sees any action. Scored his first goal in the finals in a 1-1 draw with Holland at Italia ’90. A nagging back injury hampered his career last year. Quinn joined Sunderland from Manchester City in 1995.