Giovanni Trapattoni has brought the promising Wigan midfielder straight into the starting XI following his side's disappointing Euro 2012 campaign this summer
There has been much demand for the veteran Italian coach to bring some younger players into the fold following Ireland's early exit from Poland and Ukraine, and he has duly responded.
The Wigan midfielder withdrew from the Euro 2012 squad due to personal reasons, but he now looks set to play an important role as the Boys in Green seek qualification for the World Cup in Brazil.
"I made four or five changes for the Serbia game and when you do that it is usually hard to achieve a result, but he showed good personality," Trapattoni told reporters.
"I've pushed him to shout louder but he already has the ability to see the ball one second before the opponent and that's important. Now we must give him the possibility to grow. It's a big test for him."Shay Given's retirement from international football allows Keiren Westwood to stake his claim for the number one spot, no doubt aware that Ireland's record cap holder leaves some daunting gloves to fill.
There are six survivors from the side that lost the final game of Euro 2012 against Italy, with Damien Duff and Shay Given now retired and Keith Andrews and Richard Dunne suspended and injured respectively.
Kevin Doyle will have to make do with a place on the substitutes' bench, having suffered relegation from the Premier League with Wolves last season.
There is also no place for James McClean, who recovered from a cold to travel with the squad but is kept out of the team by new Nottingham Forest signing Simon Cox.
Republic of Ireland: Westwood, O'Shea, St. Ledger, O'Dea, Ward, Whelan, McCarthy, McGeady, Cox, Walters, Keane.
The road to Brazil 2014 begins here! Goal.com will be streaming Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan at 17:00BST via Liversport.tv on Friday. Click here to subscribe!