Ireland's Republic absence continues

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Manchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland will not return to the international stage in the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Georgia next month.

Speculation had mounted that the 22-year-old would end his self-imposed exile by declaring himself available for his country once again.

However, he was not included in a 25-man party for the game at Croke Park on February 11 when manager Giovanni Trapattoni made his squad announcement on Monday morning.

There is no place either for Sunderland midfielder Andy Reid, who was left out of the squad for the friendly clash with Poland in November with Trapattoni admitting he did not fit into his current plans.

However, there were returns for Espanyol full-back Steve Finnan and Birmingham counterpart Steven Kelly, who missed the last two games through injury.

Trapattoni said: "This will be the first match of a very important year ahead in our challenge to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

"Georgia are strong opposition, but we believe in ourselves as a team and I look forward to our fans' help to give us a home advantage throughout the 90 minutes."

Ireland defeated Georgia 2-1 in the German city of Mainz in September to launch their qualifying campaign in style. The game was controversially switched from Tblisi because of the volatile political situation in the former Soviet republic at the time.

Goals from Kevin Doyle and Glenn Whelan saw Trapattoni's men home four days before a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Montenegro in Podgorica.

The Republic cemented their promising start with a 1-0 home win over Cyprus in October to leave themselves in second place in Group 8, three points adrift of World champions Italy, but with a game in hand.

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Steve Finnan
Stephen Ireland
Manchester City
Kevin Doyle
Andy Reid
Stephen Finnan
Glenn Whelan

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