The Wigan midfielder, who made himself unavailable for Euro 2012 because of an illness in his family, features in a side much-changed from the one which started Ireland's final game in Poland.
Keiren Westwood takes over in goal from the newly-retired Shay Given, and there is a place on the wing for his Sunderland team-mate James McClean.
John O'Shea captains the side and forms a centre-half pairing with Darren O'Dea, while Paul McShane and Stephen Kelly fill the full-back roles.
And Giovanni Trapattoni, who left out the likes of Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane to give his fringe players a chance to impress, pairs Shane Long and Jon Walters in attack.
Team: Westwood, McShane, O'Shea (c), O'Dea, Kelly, McGeady, McCarthy, Whelan, McClean, Walters, Long.