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What Would The Ireland Squad Look Like If We Qualified For Football In The Olympics?

What Would The Ireland Squad Look Like If We Qualified For Football In The Olympics?
By Mikey Traynor
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Sadly, Irish football will not be represented this summer in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games.

It's something we expected and have known for some time, but we couldn't help but wonder, if through some bizarre loophole we managed to book ourselves a place at the tournament, alongside Neymar and his Brazil team and Germany with the Bender twins, who would get a seat on the plane?

For argument's sake, lets say the Fiji team (yes, Fiji qualified) all picked up a mystery illness, and due to the immense craic we were at Euro 2016 the other teams decided to let us take their spot. That'll be the most likely way.

In reality, Olympic football qualification is determined by performance at the most recent UEFA U-21 European Championship, which was held in the Czech Republic in 2016 and for which Ireland did not qualify. The final four teams in that tournament secure a spot at the summer games.

The squad must be comprised of 18 players, of which only three can be over 23 years of age, born after 1/1/1993.

The three overage players must be considered carefully, and we must keep in mind that if we were going to Rio after playing at Euro 2016 we couldn't really ask any of the players who played in France to make both trips, and players like Harry Arter and Alan Judge would not be risked after injury, so with that in mind, here is what we have come up with:


Kieren Westwood - GK - Sheffield Wednesday - Age: 31

Having been upset at being overlooked for the #1 spot in the past, Kieren Westwood would finally be given his run in Rio. Sheffield Wednesday wouldn't be too thrilled, but it's the Olympics.


Ian Lawlor - GK - Manchester City - Age: 21

Westwood's understudy would be highly promising young keeper Ian Lawlor who made the move over from Home Farm. Some very positive reviews are coming out of Man City, definitely one to look out for in the future.


Damien Delaney - CB - Crystal Palace - Age: 35

We would absolutely need a senior defender to go, and having announced his international retirement due to being in and out of squads, we believe Delaney would welcome the chance to be an Olympian and represent Ireland one last time.

Also, on last season's form he is arguably Ireland's best centre-back, so he would be good to have with all the youth around him.


Cyrus Christie - RB - Derby County - Age: 23

Cyrus didn't see a minute of action in France but would be one of the senior members of this squad considering his full international experience.

He'd start at right back, in every game if possible.

Brian Lenihan - RB - Hull City - Age: 22

Backup to Christie and providing cover at left-back would be Brian Lenihan who may see first team action with Hull in the Premier League this season.


Having made the move from Cork City, Lenihan is another player talked about as a future full international.

Tommy Hoban - CB - Watford - Age: 22

Having captained the U21s before, Hoban will be in contention to start alongside Damien Delaney.

The Watford defender is expected to be involved in Martin O'Neill's squads in the not too distant future so Rio would be a great stage to show what he can do.


Kevin Toner - CB/LB - Aston Villa - Age: 20

Having made his Premier League debut last season, Toner has been earning rave reviews from Villa Park and will likely step into the role vacated by Ciaran Clark as the Irish international has completed his move to Newcastle.

Speaking of Newcastle, it was against them that Toner was asked to play left-back by caretaker manager Eric Black last season, and he was very impressed with what he saw:

We looked at the video and their biggest threat was down the right. It was a big ask for Kevin Toner but my goodness did he stand up to it.

He deserves enormous credit. He kept his head held high and he has performed at Premier League level.

He will start at left-back in this team as Greg Cunningham is somehow 25 years of age.

Eoghan O'Connell - CB - Celtic - Age: 20

Cousin of Paul (yes, that Paul O'Connell), Eoghan O'Connell is already impressing new Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers having played a big role in pre-season and the early Champions League qualifiers.


Celtic badly need to sign another defender, but it's more because of Efe Ambrose rather than O'Connell who made the move over from Cork City.


Jack Byrne - CM - Blackburn Rovers - Age: 20

You should all know about Jack Byrne by now, seen by many as the next great hope. Patrick Viera loves him, and all eyes would be on him if this team were ever to take the field.


Now on loan at Blackburn from Man City, we'll get a good look at him now after he has returned from SC Cambuur.

Daryl Horgan - LW - Dundalk - Age: 23

One of the stars of the excellent Dundalk side that just secured their place in Europe this season, Horgan will be one of the key players in this side, charged with supporting the strikers and providing the type of service he has been doing for David McMillan.

While Dundalk would understandably be raging, we couldn't leave him out of this team.

Brandon Miele - CM - Shamrock Rovers - Age: 21

One of the key players in the U21 setup, Miele has been impressive for Rovers but would be another player plucked from the League of Ireland season who would no doubt cause unrest back home.

A key creative part of this side, Miele would be in contention to start in the midfield as the only area of the pitch not to have an overage player in the squad.

Chris Forrester - CM - Peterborough United - Age: 23

A player who would be talked about a lot in the run-up to the tournament kick-off, Forrester would be a key player for this side and would essentially be undergoing a dress rehearsal for the senior side.

Another player who simply could not be omitted from this hypothetical squad.

Darragh Lenihan - CM - Blackburn Rovers - Age: 22

Jack Byrne's teammate this season at Blackburn, Darragh Lenihan would sit deep as someone who could also play centre-back allowing others to push on.

Highly rated at Ewood Park, Lenihan is another one who also featured on our 11 Championship players to watch this season.

Callum O'Dowda - LW - Bristol City - Age: 21

Having recently secured a move to Bristol City, and made his international debut where he impressed against Belarus, O'Dowda would be starting in support of the attack opposite Daryl Horgan.

There's no way the former Oxford United winger would be left at home.

Alan Browne - CM - Preston North End - Age: 21

Another former Cork City player, Browne has established himself as an important player for Preston and has been linked with a Premier League move in recent times.


Robbie Keane - ST - LA Galaxy - Age: 36

Come on. You know damn well that should Ireland make an appearance at the Olympics in football while Robbie Keane is still able to walk, he will make himself available.

Stevie G and Giovani Dos Santos can hold the fort down back in Hollywood, and Robbie can carry the flag for Ireland at the opening ceremony to give him the send off he deserves since he never got that goodbye appearance in France.

It's beautiful.

Seanie Maguire - ST - Cork City - Age: 22

What's that? Another Cork City player? Yes.

Seanue Maguire has been in good form for Cork this year and is the best option from the U21 squad to make the step up when Robbie's legs get too heavy.

Ryan Manning - ST - Queens Park Rangers - Age: 20

A very highly rated young striker who made the move from Galway to London, Manning knows where the goal is and would share duties with Sean Maguire in the very likely even that Robbie Keane wouldn't be able for so much football in such a short space of time.


Brian Kerr - Coach/Pundit - TV3 - Age: 63

You know it makes sense.

A great relationship with Robbie Keane (who we are appointing as his player/assistant for this tournament) a proven track record of working with Irish youngsters, Brian Kerr is the man to steer us towards Olympic victory...

Well... At least moral victory.

There you have it, our stab at an Ireland Olympic football team mixing old heads with League of Ireland stars and graduates, and what we expect will be the nucleus of the future Ireland squads. And we'd still manage to have the oldest average age at the tournament.

Now bring on Neymar in his back garden.

SEE ALSO: 11 Irish Players Who Could Light Up The Championship This Season

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