The Republic of Ireland team are training in Bursa today ahead of Wednesday's second leg Euro 2000 play-off against Turkey. Manager Mick McCarthy had to nurse his walking wounded through their first training session after a damaging 1-1 draw with Turkey in the first leg of the Euro 2000 play-off at Lansdowne Road on Saturday night.
Goalkeeper Alan Kelly had already been sent back to Blackburn for treatment on a groin injury before the Irish set out on a marathon eight-hour journey into Asia Minor by air, road and sea. And teenage marksman Robbie Keane was also left at home after an 85th-minute booking on Saturday ruled him out of Wednesday's decisive second leg through suspension. But a roll-call of other casualties also revealed fitness doubts over centre backs Kenny Cunningham and Gary Breen, who both have knee injuries, midfielder Lee Carsley, suffering from bruised Achilles tendons, and full back Steve Carr with a hamstring strain.
McCarthy remains hopeful that all four will be fit in time and that striker Niall Quinn, who was an 11th hour withdrawal on Saturday with a neck muscle injury, will also be available. And the manager has already decided that David Connolly will take Robbie Keane's place on Wednesday in preference to veteran Tony Cascarino, who won his 87th cap in the first leg. Charlton goalkeeper Dean Kiely, having replaced the stricken Kelly as a 61st minute substitute on Saturday, is certain to make his full debut even though Oldham's Gary Kelly - Alan's older brother - was due to join the squad today as emergency cover. McCarthy said, "I've no concerns about Dean because he is playing out of his skin for Charlton and looked the part when he came on for Alan".
The Irish may be in anything but top shape for the daunting task of pegging back Turkey's away-goal advantage here, but McCarthy, who also has Charlton midfielder Mark Kinsella available again after suspension, insists, "We have got to go out and attack and I still believe we are good enough to score here and reach the finals".
He is ready to put his faith in little striker Connolly, the former Watford player who has not started an international since the friendly against Sweden in April and seen his career go downhill in the last 18 months after a dream move to Dutch giants Feyenoord turned sour. Connolly, who also had a failed loan spell at Wolves, is now playing for Feyenoord's nursery team Excelsior in the Dutch second division and has scored 16 goals this season. He impressed as a substitute for Ireland on Saturday, setting up Robbie Keane's goal 11 minutes from time only to see it equalised by Havutcu Tayfur's penalty just four minutes later after Carsley handled in the box.
McCarthy said, "David will play on Wednesday. I don't want to give Turkey too many clues about our approach at this stage but it will be obvious to them that we have to go for goals".
On Saturday, big Sunderland target-man Quinn had two pain-killing injections for his neck injury, which the Irish had kept secret for two days, but was still in considerable discomfort during a late fitness test and, with his famous aerial power clearly reduced, McCarthy took the decision to leave him out. Quinn's 37-year-old deputy Cascarino missed two good scoring chances but McCarthy said today, "Even if we had come here with a lead there's no way we would have just tried to sit back and defend it. We cannot afford anything negative at all for this game. Too many times already in this campaign we've had a lead and then sat back too deep. I don't know if it is a psychological thing but it is the responsibility of the whole team not just the back-four. I would have been delighted with any sort of win against the Turks in the first leg because, as everybody saw on Saturday, they are a very good side. We gave the ball away far too easily sometimes on Saturday but, apart from that, I thought we played quite well overall".