Staunton rings changes in first Irish squad

New Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton named a few surprises in his first squad since taking charge last month.

There are five new faces in a 23-man squad for the friendly against Sweden at Lansdowne Road on March 1, including Manchester City youngster Stephen Ireland, Bolton midfielder Joey O’Brien, Tottenham full-back Stephen Kelly, Sunderland winger Liam Lawrence and Brighton goalkeeper Wayne Henderson.

Staunton said: “I have been looking at a lot of players very closely over the last month and the time is right to give some new lads the opportunity to play at senior level.”

Staunton also included Jonathan Douglas, the Blackburn midfielder on loan with Leeds at present, whose only other two previous caps were won in 2004.

Reading striker Kevin Doyle, who was included in the squad for Brian Kerr’s final two games in charge last October – World Cup qualifiers against Cyprus and Switzerland – but never played – is one of six non-capped players.

Manchester United midfielder John O’Shea and Sunderland striker Stephen Elliott are also in the 23, despite rib and back injuries at present, although the former returned to light training yesterday.

Significant absentees include Norwich defender Gary Doherty, while wingers Andy Reid of Spurs and Celtic’s Aiden McGeady are injured.

Staunton, unveiling his squad at Jurys Hotel in Dublin, was unafraid to include so many uncapped players in the party.

He added: “This has been a while coming, but I think we have a nice blend of experience, youth and new faces.

“I’ve said from day one this is what we have to look at. We have two friendly matches before the European Championships start, so it has to be done sooner rather than later.”

Staunton, though, refused to unveil his captain as successor to the now retired Kenny Cunningham.

“We have thought about it,” conceded Staunton, who is likely to go for Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given or Everton’s Kevin Kilbane.

"I need to speak to the players first before I confirm anything.”

Staunton revealed he is also looking at another couple of friendlies in May once the season is over, with the only other game on the agenda at present against Holland in August.

“We will have a game in May, other than that we will have a get together at some stage.”

Republic of Ireland squad to face Sweden at Lansdowne Road on March 1:

Given (Newcastle), Kenny (Sheff Utd), Henderson (Brighton), Breen (Sunderland), Harte (Levante), Finnan (Liverpool), A O’Brien (Portsmouth), Dunne (Man City), Miller (Leeds), Kilbane (Everton), Reid (Blackburn), Duff (Chelsea), Keane (Tottenham), Morrison (Crystal Palace), Kavanagh (Wigan), Doyle (Reading), Ireland (Man City), Elliott (Sunderland), Lawrence (Sunderland), J O’Brien (Bolton), Kelly (Tottenham), O’Shea (Man Utd), Douglas (Leeds).

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