Fulham pair Stephen Kelly and Damien Duff have been named in the Republic of Ireland squad for this summer’s European Championship finals in Ukraine and Poland.
The call-ups by Giovanni Trapattoni, although not entirely unexpected, are a fitting reward for the duo’s energetic end to the domestic campaign. Kelly and Duff have dovetailed down the Fulham successfully since the former Newcastle winger made his return to the starting line-up in March. Kelly has had a terrific season, usurping Chris Baird as Jol’s first choice at right back after the cruciate injury suffered by Zdenek Grygera, and only last week was offered a new contract in recognition of his outstanding performances.
Kelly could well be a key member of the Irish defence at the tournament, where the Irish are drawn against Croatia, Spain and Trapattoni’s native Italy in Group C. Duff might face combination from his opposite number at Craven Cottage yesterday afternoon – the Sunderland teenager winger James McClean, who has been in sensational form since being handed an opportunity to impress new Stadium of Light boss Martin O’Neill.
The big story from today’s announcement is that the omission of Wigan midfielder James McCarthy, who asked to be left out as his father is currently battling cancer.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND SQUAD – GOALKEEPERS: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall).
DEFENDERS: John O’Shea (Sunderland), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Sean St Ledger (Leicester City), Darren O’Dea (Celtic), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Kevin Foley (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
MIDFIELDERS: Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moskva), Darron Gibson (Everton), Keith Fahey (Birmingham City), Damien Duff (Fulham), Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers), James McClean (Sunderland).
STRIKERS: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion).