Shane Long has been named in the provisional Republic of Ireland squad for the double header against Sweden and Austria later this month, despite having picked up an ankle injury while training with West Brom.
Yet the big story is the surprise inclusion of Reading defender Stephen Kelly, following last month’s falling out with manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
Trapattoni named a provisional 29 man squad in Dublin this morning, but he will cut that to 23 next week.
Long is expected to miss out on the Baggies’ game with Swansea City this weekend but both Trapattoni and his club manager Steve Clarke have indicated hat he will be ready for Stockholm in a fortnight’s time.
Kelly, meanwhile, is included despite a very public dispute over his ‘resting’ for the friendly win over Poland. The Dubliner had released a statement following comments from the manager after that 2-0 win.
Derby County's Conor Sammon is named in the party along with Jeff Hendrick after both made their debut in that win over Poland.
Keith Andrews, however, misses out as his recovery from a groin injury was hampered by a recurring Achilles problem, though Robbie Keane is back in the fold and Norwich City duo Antonhy Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan are also in the squad.
As expected, Richard Dunne will not feature. He hasn’t played for club or country since the summer as his battle with hip and groin injuries continue.
On a more promising note, Stoke City defender Marc Wilson is included after recovering from a broken leg since the autumn, while Seamus Coleman is also fit.
Wilson has only played two games for Stoke in his comeback from four months out.
Speaking today in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland manager said: “Last month’s friendly game against Poland was a great opportunity to work with younger players, and I saw a lot of potential from them.
“We played very well during the game, and I intend on building from that performance this month.
“These two games against Sweden and Austria are very important, and we are focused on the task in hand.
“I am confident that these players can work together to produce the results we need. Sweden and Austria are two very strong teams, who have done very well in Group C to date.
“However, I believe that our players have the mentality and attitude necessary to qualify. I am looking forward to assembling the squad on March 17.”
Ireland are currently third in qualification Group C, behind Germany and Sweden.
Trapattoni will be attending tonight’s game between St Patrick’s Athletic and Drogheda United in Inchicore.
Squad to face Sweden and Austria: Westwood, Forde, Randolph; O'Shea, St. Ledger, Clark, Wilson, Coleman, Kelly, O'Dea, O'Brien, McShane, Pearce, Ward; Whelan, McCarthy, Green, Hendrick, McGeady, Pilkington, McClean, Brady; Keane, Long, Doyle, Sammon, Walters, Cox, Hoolahan.