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Republic of Ireland
Ireland re-emerging from the shadows
The Republic of Ireland emerged in 1987 under the tutelage of former England great Jack Charlton, who took the team to two FIFA World Cups and a UEFA European Championship in the space of six years.
Since Big Jack's retirement in 1995, his former protégé Mick McCarthy initially struggled to return the nation to former glories before qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, where the Irish emerged from the "group of death" that included The Netherlands and Portugal.
Captain and playmaker Roy Keane has finally reached the level of impact at international football that he has had for his club Manchester United over the past few years. The gritty midfielder has a talismanic power over the Irish team, lifting the entire side to levels they would almost never reach on their own.
Keane's supporting cast are mostly young and exciting prospects. Blackburn Rovers winger Damien Duff, Ipswich's Matt Holland, Charlton's Mark Kinsella and Wolves flanker Mark Kennedy all give the Republic an unprecedented level of skill and flexibility in midfield.
Leeds striker Robbie Keane (no relation to Roy) is one of Europe's most potent threats up front, while free-scoring Crystal Palace forward Clinton Morrison appears to have a bright future in the green shirt. Wimbledon and former Feyenoord striker David Connolly is also an excellent impact player that any side would love to have on the bench.
Significant past players:
Paul McGrath, Liam Brady, Johnny Giles
-- Quarter-final 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy
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