Seamus Coleman and Ciaran Clark will make their Republic of Ireland senior debuts against Wales tonight in the Carling Nations Cup while Shay Given will captain the side and earn a record 110th cap.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni announced the news on Sunday night at the 3/FAI International Soccer Awards, where Coleman was named U-21 Player of the Year. And the Italian confirmed yesterday when he named his team for the game against Wales at the Aviva Stadium tonight (kick-off 7.45pm), which will include Clark at left-back and Coleman on the right-hand-side of midfield.
The introduction of Coleman and Aston Villa's London-born Clark is a rare example of Trapattoni altering the make-up of his team but their introduction is one that is likely to please supporters. Given's inclusion is a welcome one for the man who has played only four club games at Manchester City this term.
"If I can play well for Everton then hopefully the chance will come and it's up to the manager then if he wants to pick me then but it's certainly something that I want to do," Coleman said of his possible international debut before hearing the news.
Clark's father Michael was born in Scotland, but moved to Ballyare, as a boy, even lining out as a teenager for Milford United. A Leitrim connection comes from his mother, Peggy, who was born and raised in Drumshambo.
"It never felt right to me when I was playing for England because Ireland was always the country I wanted to represent," Clark said. "This is the natural path for me because I have come from an Irish background and spent most of my summer holidays over there when I was a kid. I loved my time in Leitrim and Donegal and it has always felt like home to me in many ways."
One man who will have to wait to add to his one cap for Ireland is James McCarthy. The talented midfielder scored twice for Wigan Athletic in their 4-3 Premier League win over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday before being replaced after 82 minutes.
McCarthy, who has Gweedore connections, was withdrawn from the squad at the request of Wigan boss Roberto Martinez as the youngster has only just returned from a long-term injury.
Meanwhile, Ciara Grant from Letterkenny, Greencastle's Niamh McLaughlin and Tanya Kennedy of Finn Valley were also on the winners' podium on Sunday night. She was part of the squad that reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup and the final of the Women's U-17 European Championships. The Irish squad received the Special Merit Award.
Also, Joe Coll from Meenlaragh, a goalkeeper at Manchester United's academy, was nominated for the U-16 Player of the Year, Manorcunningham native Stephen O'Donnell from Kildrum Tigers was short-listed for the Intermediate Player of the Year Award and Letterkenny's Mary Strain was in the running for the Football for All International
Player of the Year.
Ireland team to play Wales: Shay Given; John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Ciaran Clark; Seamus Coleman, Glenn Whelan, Darron Gibson/ Paul Green; Damien Duff; Jonathan Walters, Kevin Doyle.