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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Ireland's rising stars

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Ireland arrived at the World Cup with a squad drawn from the lower reaches of the Premiership and the Nationwide League.

Indeed one of them, Gary Breen, did not even have a club.

Yet following their heroics in Korea, many of Mick McCarthy's squad will now be coveted by England's elite.

BBC Sport Online looks at the Irish players who have enhanced their reputations and are set for big-money moves before the start of next season.


Ireland forward Damien Duff
Damien Duff
(Blackburn)
One of the sensations of the World Cup.

"If you had to pick a world XI at the moment, Duff would be there," Leeds boss David O'Leary told BBC's Match of the Day on Sunday.

And who could argue after watching the Blackburn forward torment a succession of defences at the World Cup?

Duff was a threat in attack, where he started Ireland's four matches.

But it was when switched to the wing, his club position, that he really came into his own.

Duff terrified full-backs such as Spain's Juanfran with his ability to race away on the outside or cut in and head for goal.

Blackburn boss Graeme Souness says he will not let the prodigiously talented 23-year-old go, but with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and AC Milan on his trail he might have to.


Ireland captain Matt Holland
Matt Holland
(Ipswich)
Achieved the seemingly impossible by filling the midfield void left by Roy Keane.

Holland got through a prodigious amount of work, both shielding his defence and launching attacks.

He scored a splendid second-half equaliser in the opener against Cameroon and deserved better than to miss in the shoot-out against Spain.

Relegated Ipswich slapped a 10m price-tag on Holland at the start of the World Cup.

That looked hopelessly optimistic at the time but seems reasonable now.


Ireland defender Steve Finnan
Steve Finnan
(Fulham)
Ireland played only one bad half in Korea - the first 45 minutes of their first game against Cameroon - and that was the only half Finnan missed.

Coincidence? Maybe, but the Fulham right-back enhanced an already growing reputation at the World Cup.

He was soild in defence and a useful outlet in attack when overlapping Gary Kelly.

Finnan was named in the Premiership team of the season and was linked with a move to Manchester United before the World Cup started.

Sir Alex Ferguson might find him irresistible now.


Ireland midfielder Steven Reid
Steven Reid
(Millwall)
Was on his way to the airport for a holiday in Barbados when Mick McCarthy called him up in place of the injured Mark Kennedy.

Irish fans were soon grateful that the adventurous Millwall midfielder was in Korea rather than sunning himself on the beach.

Reid came on as a substitute against Germany and his willingness to run at a tired defence gave Ireland new impetus and helped gain a late equaliser.

The confidence and ability the 21-year-old has shown make it difficult to believe he was playing in the Second Division a year ago.

Reid was fundamental in Millwall's march to the Division one play-offs last term and he has been linked with a move to Aston Villa.


Ireland defender Gary Breen
Gary Breen
(Free agent)
A series of impressive World Cup performances have ensured Breen will not be a free agent for much longer.

The 28-year-old, who decided to leave Coventry when his contract expired at the end of the season, forged a solid and consistent central defensive partnership with captain Steve Staunton.

He may lack pace, but is strong in the air, firm in the tackle and an astute reader of the game.

Breen is available on a Bosman free transfer and Southampton and Everton are reported to be vying for his signature.


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