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Chelsea 04:00 Liverpool

Thornton blow for Sunderland

By Graeme Bailey.   Last Updated: 04/03/03 4:41pm

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REPUBLIC OF IRELAND manager Brian Kerr has defended his country's decision to call-up Sean Thornton of Sunderland to their World Youth Championships squad, ruling him out of Sunderland's next three games.

Thornton has been named in Ireland's squad for the prestigious Fifa tournament, which begins in the United Arab Emirates at the end of this month.

Kerr, who was previously in charge of the youths before landing the senior role, confirmed that Thornton would be travelling to the Middle East.

Ireland can have Thornton two weeks before their first game, which is on March 27 against Saudi Arabia, meaning he will join the squad on March 14.

Then the former Tranmere youngster will be missing at least a week of football, whilst the three group games in UAE are played - meaning he will miss Sunderland's games against Bolton, West Ham and Chelsea.

Kerr defended Ireland's decision saying: "Sean was not in the Sunderland team on Saturday - he wasn't even on the bench.

"You also have to remember it's only a few months ago that they were loaning him out to Blackpool.

"The rules are clear - we're entitled to the players two weeks before our first match of the competition.

"Howard Wilkinson was an international manager not so long ago, so I hope he respects our position.

"It is our policy to field our strongest team in finals tournaments and this kind of thing has come up before.

"It is a huge honour and achievement and it would be unthinkable to say to these lads that they aren't going to go."

Of Ireland's 20-man party only one - Eamon Zayed - is based in Ireland.

The squad in full: Wayne Henderson (Aston Villa), Brian Murphy (Manchester City), Stephen Brennan (Newcastle United), Stephen Capper (Sunderland), John Fitzgerald (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen Kelly (Tottenham Hotspur), Patrick McCarthy (Manchester City), Stephen Paisley (Manchester City), Mark Rossiter (Sunderland), Adrian Deane (Charlton Athletic), Willo Flood (Manchester City), Michael Foley (Liverpool), Liam Kearney (Nottingham Forest), Darren Potter (Liverpool), Sean Thornton (Sunderland), Graham Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Glen Whelan (Manchester City), Jonathan Daly (Stockport County), Stephen Elliott (Manchester City), Eamon Zayed (Bray Wanderers)

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