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Trapattoni moves to end speculation by including McCarthy in Macedonia squad

Keane and Lawrence both included in panel after coming through substitute appearances unscathed at the weekend.

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND took another big step towards securing the international services of Wigan midfielder James McCarthy this afternoon when the 20-year-old was called up to Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad.

Earlier this afternoon, the Italian named a provisional 29-man panel for Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifier against FYR Macedonia on March 26 and the friendly against Uruguay three days later.

Though McCarthy has one Irish cap to his name having featured in a friendly against Brazil last year, his international future was subject to some speculation in recent months.

The Glasgow-born youngster was originally named as part of the Irish squad for February’s Carling Nations Cup game against Wales. However, he did not link up with the squad after picking up a knock during Wigan’s game against Blackburn Rovers and apparently cited “tiredness” as a factor in his decision to withdraw.

Although he has represented Ireland at both underage and senior level, FIFA regulations state that until a player makes a competitive appearance for a country, he is still entitled to switch allegiance to other eligible nations – in this case, Scotland.

While many – including McCarthy’s father – were insistent that the player has always been committed to representing Ireland, a competitive debut at the end of the month will remove any shred of doubt.

Keeper worries

In the absence of the injured Shay Given, Giovanni Trapattoni has handed call-ups  to two uncapped goalkeepers, Darren Randolph of Motherwell and David Forde of Milwall.

It is likely however that Coventry City keeper Kieren Westwood will deputise in Given’s absence. It was feared that Westwood, who already has five caps under his belt, may be ruled out due to injury after he was substituted at half-time in Coventry’s 4-1 defeat at home to Bristol City at the start of the month.

Although he sat out his side’s 1-1 draw away to Doncaster Rovers last Tuesday, he came through Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat against Hull City unscathed.

Ireland also received a welcome boost yesterday when captain Robbie Keane made an appearance as a second-half substitute during West Ham’s FA Cup defeat against Stoke City. The 30-year-old had been out of action since the beginning of February with a torn calf muscle.

Winger Liam Lawrence also appears to have made a timely return from injury, playing just over a half-hour of Portsmouth’s 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Meanwhile, question marks remain over Aston Villa’s Richard Dunne who has  been given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Macedonia match. Dunne picked up a shoulder injury at the start of the month and though the initial prognosis suggested he would be out for four weeks, there is still a chance that he will recover in time to feature.

Irish squad to face FYR Macedonia (March 26) and Uruguay (March 29):

Keiren Westwood (Coventry City); Darren Randolph (Motherwell); David Forde (Milwall); Kevin Foley (Wolves); John O’Shea (Manchester United); Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa); Seamus Coleman (Everton); Richard Dunne (Aston Villa); Sean St. Ledger (Preston North End); Stephen Kelly (Fulham); Darren O’Dea (Celtic); Kevin Kilbane (Huddersfield Town); Marc Wilson (Stoke City); Darron Gibson (Manchester United); Glenn Whelan (Stoke City); Paul Green (Derby County); Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth); James McCarthy (Wigan); Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow); Keith Treacy (Preston North End); Keith Andrews (Blackburn); Keith Fahey (Birmingham City); Damien Duff (Fulham); Robbie Keane (West Ham); Jonathan Walters (Stoke City); Kevin Doyle (Wolves); Shane Long (Reading); Leon Best (Newcastle); Andy Keogh (Bristol City).

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Niall Kelly

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