McCarthy will have just this one match in which to look at the young Irish stars who are queuing up for places in the senior squad left vacant by the retirement of Steve Staunton, Niall Quinn and Alan Kelly and the unavailability of Roy Keane.
It was always predictable that McCarthy would include the exciting young Celtic midfielder, Colin Healy, who was so close to winning a spot in the travelling 23 for the World Cup finals in Asia.
Healy’s sparkling form in his three appearances early this year marked him out as a future star and it is certain he will play for at least part of the game against Finland.
It is more likely that he will start the match alongside one of Ireland’s more experienced midfield players, Matt Holland, Mark Kinsella or Lee Carsley, for he looked a well-rounded player in his previous appearances with a naturally competitive attitude matched to a wide range of passing abilities.
Carr’s return is a real boost for after missing almost 12 months because of a serious knee injury, he is well on the road to the full recovery of his best form. Prior to his injury, he was regarded as the best full-back in the Premiership and it is a measure of Ireland’s strength now that he will be joining Steve Finnan, Ian Harte and Gary Kelly in competition for the two full-back positions.
McPhail’s recall after 12 months’ absence will, hopefully, kick-start a career that was stalled by his failure to win a regular place with Leeds United over the past 18 months.
He last played for the senior Irish team against Croatia in August of last year, and of all the players in the squad, he is the nearest Ireland have to filling the role of a classic “play-maker.” McPhail’s game is all about the creative aspects of football and he has the potential to bring a touch of subtlety to Ireland’s play.
that has been missing since Liam Brady retired. But McPhail, just like Colin Healy and John O’Shea of Man United who will captain Ireland’s Under-21 team in Finland, will have to secure regular first-team action if he is to fulfil his potential to bring a touch of subtlety.
The squad is:
Shay Given (Newcastle Utd), Dean Kiely (Charlton Athletic), Nick Colgan (Hibernian); Ian Harte (Leeds Utd), Richard Dunne (Manchester City), Gary Breen (West Ham Utd), Andy O’Brien (Newcastle Utd), Gary Kelly (Leeds Utd), Ken Cunningham (Birmingham City), Steve Finnan (Fulham), Stephen Carr (Spurs), Jason McAteer (Sunderland), Matt Holland (Ipswich Town), Kevin Kilbane (Sunderland), Steven Reid (Millwall), Colin Healy (Celtic), Mark Kinsella (Charlton Athletic), Lee Carsley (Everton), Rory Delap(Southampton), Robbie Keane (Leeds Utd), Clinton Morrison (Birmingham City), Damien Duff (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen McPhail (Leeds Utd), Richard Sadlier (Millwall), Gary Doherty (Spurs).