02.06.2004 at 19:45 - The Valley, London
Brian Kerr makes no excuses for giving some of the Republic of Ireland's squad players a taste of international football in the Unity Cup.Ireland suffered their heaviest defeat in nine years when they were beaten 3-0 at the hands of Nigeria in the tournament's opening game at The Valley on Saturday.
The Republic boss believes the experience such players will take from these games, which continue against Jamaica tonight, will ensure they are not phased should he call on them during the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.
"Martin Rowlands has played in a couple of games and done reasonably well. If we hadn't had this group of games, people like him wouldn't have had the opportunity," reflected Kerr.
"That will continue tonight. We are a bit away from what we wanted, but it will be a young vibrant team."
He added: "I would have liked the balance of the squad to be different, but we have to work with those players.
"Almost all of them have come through the underage system and for some it has come earlier than we would have wanted. It would be better if they were coming in among a group of more experienced players. It's about giving them the chance and trying to get results while we are doing that, but it is not easy."
Despite having no qualms about his squad rotation policy, Kerr is looking for an improvement against the Reggae Boyz, who lost 2-0 to Nigeria.
"I thought they were a big, strong team," said Kerr. "They are adventurous and will give us a real game.
"But I am more interested in how we are going to go because we did not do ourselves justice on Saturday."
Kerr has one injury concern after Blackburn midfielder Jonathan Douglas picked up a slight knee injury.
Manchester United's John O'Shea is set to return to the defence after being rested on Saturday. Steve Finnan, Kenny Cunningham, Matt Holland and Robbie Keane all start on the bench.
Mark Kinsella will captain the side and Hearts defender Alan Maybury is expected to win another cap along with Clinton Morrison, who was rested against Nigeria.
There could also be debuts for Coventry's Michael Doyle and Nottingham Forest's John Thompson, as well as Celtic's Aiden McGeady.
Whatever the result tonight, or against Holland on Saturday, Kerr feels the end-of-season friendlies will leave Ireland in a stronger position when they meet France and Switzerland in their World Cup qualifying group.
He said: "We are trying to get the best and widest squad that will have the ability to come into the big qualification games over the full period without it being an ageing issue.
"They should be comfortable with each other and know the ways of international football. That will be the end product of this, that the group will be even wider than I would have expected before the matches started."