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Duff insists McCarthy will be major asset for Irish

A DEBUT defeat for teenager James McCarthy, but Damien Duff feels that the Wigan midfielder will only improve the Irish squad once he gets more chances to impress in the green shirt.

McCarthy's first cap against Brazil last night was like a flashback to the beginning of Duff's own international career: Duff was as teenage midfielder, playing for a Lancashire club (Blackburn) when he made his Ireland debut away from home in a match we lost (2-1 in the Czech Republic).

"I have been watching out for him because his background is a bit like mine, and he has a lot of potential," said Duff after McCarthy's impressive debut.

"It was nice to see new faces in the squad. I follow the Irish lads across the leagues and it was good to see them up close. I was impressed with James McCarthy. You could see last night he's a natural ball player, he has a good touch and is good on the ball, we'll see a lot more of him.

"It was a way to get a game under our belts after what happened in Paris and we have two more friendlies to come in May. We have a few youngsters in the squad and we're looking to kick on in the qualifiers now. We're all planning to come in for those games in May; I'm just waiting to be selected and I'm looking forward to it," added the Fulham man.

"It was very disappointing in the end, I thought we were the better team for the first half, but we gave away a sloppy goal just before the break and then created a lot of our own problems in the second half, so it was a disappointing end after a good start.

"A goal before half time is always a sucker punch but it's still no excuse. We were missing a few big players last night, like Richard Dunne and John O'Shea, but it was also good to see new talent come in and it's up to the more senior players to help them along."

Meanwhile, Stoke man Liam Lawrence fears that bad refereeing is starting to follow Ireland around after TV replays showed that Brazil's opening goal should have been disallowed.

"Their first goal was offside and that was hard to take, having done so well in the first half, it was another decision that went against us and it's ironic coming after the France game. But we could have been 1-0 up before that, we had a chance," said Lawrence.

"It was disappointing to lose, we did well in the first half and we should have been level at the break but we conceded that goal, then we didn't do what we are good at in the second half. We weren't ourselves, we sat off and let them play, let them keep the ball and we made it hard for ourselves.

"It was good in a way to get the French game out of the system but we're disappointed to lose so we have to focus on the qualifiers now," added Lawrence after picking up his sixth senior cap.