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Doyle and McGeady must start

Ireland need pace and passion if they’re to kick-start their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

Tony Cascarino, 05 Oct 2006

Seeing as Slovakia stuck six past them in the most one-sided game I’ve seen all year, I fully expect our lads to do the business on Saturday in Cyprus. While coming home with three points is ultimately what matters, an emphatic scoreline would restore a bit of confidence ahead of the Czech Republic game, which is a far tougher ask.

I’m disappointed that Steve Staunton didn’t include Lee Carsley, who’s been excellent so far this season for Everton, in his squad. Given John O’Shea and Kevin Kilbane’s less than dazzling performances in recent Ireland games, we desperately need somebody in midfield who’ll battle for every ball and, having gained possession, gets it to the forwards. I could understand Stan having reservations if Carsley was a couple of years older, but at 32 he’s still capable of going at full-pelt for 90 minutes and has another major tournament in him.

Another player that’s been overlooked is Mark Kennedy. Yes, he was a bit of a tearaway in his younger years, but Peter Taylor, an ex-international manager himself, has had nothing but praise for the way he’s conducted himself at Crystal Palace. I probably wouldn’t start him in a big game, but a goal down with 15 minutes to go, he’s capable of conjuring up a bit of magic to get you back on terms.

Upfront, Stan will be delighted at how well Kevin Doyle’s adapted to life in the Premiership with Reading. Indeed, he’s pushing to be Ireland’s most important forward.

Doyle’s work-rate, as he showed in the Germany game, is superb. He’s quick, decent at holding the ball up and as good with his head as he is his feet. He’s combatitive without being a hothead and drifts out wide to good effect. Most importantly for Ireland, he’s just the type of player you want alongside Robbie Keane who’ll be a bit happier with life following Spurs’ 2-1 victory over Portsmouth.

As for who’s going to supply Kevin Doyle with crosses, I’d go for Damien Duff on the left and Aiden McGeady, who’s been Celtic’s best player this season, on the right.

His final pass can be a bit suspect, but McGeady’s got the pace and tricks to really unnerve defences. Stephen Reid’s a great up and downer, but he’s not a natural wide-man or somebody who gets past people eight or nine times a game.

I don’t think we’ll miss Shay Given against Cyprus, but I’d have liked him in goal for the Czech Republic who possess the considerable aerial threat of Jan Koller. I’m just glad that Shay’s injury didn’t turn out to be as career-threateningly serious as first thought. Paddy Kenny’s done okay behind what’s been a very shaky Sheffield United defence, so we’ve a proper Premiership replacement in goal.

I’m a bit worried by Stan’s attitude towards the press because it puts players on edge. Away from home especially, you’ve got journalists staying in the same hotel as you and you don’t want to be worrying that saying “hello” to the guy from the Star or the Mirror or wherever is going to upset the manager. The last thing we want is the all-out siege mentality that developed under Brian Kerr.

Knowing Steve as I do, I think he’ll learn from the mistakes he’s made. It’s fortunate that it’s the Cyprus game he has to sit in the stand for because he’ll have more and tougher decisions to make against the Czechs.

One he’s already taken is not to include Stephen McPhail in the squad. Although he’s been going great guns for Cardiff, I’m not convinced that he has what it takes to do it at the highest level. Running rings round Colchester doesn’t mean you’re going to give France a tough time.

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