Football

The Form Guide: How Does Ireland's Squad Look 6 Weeks Out From Wales?

The Form Guide: How Does Ireland's Squad Look 6 Weeks Out From Wales?

In just over six weeks time, Ireland will host Wales in the first meeting between the two sides in World Cup 2018 Qualifying group D.

Ireland sit atop the group with 10 points, while Wales are in third on six points behind Serbia on nine. As a result, the Welsh will be desperate to get a win and prevent the gap from growing further, whereas Martin O'Neill's men will know that a draw would not be a bad result although a win would go a big way to getting us where we want to be, in the top two spots come the end of qualification.

We're still waiting for an update on Gareth Bale, who faces a race to be fit in time for the match, and while we don't know what's going on with him and his recovery at Real Madrid, what we do know is what the Irish players likely to be in O'Neill's squad for next month are up to.

We've listed the most likely candidates to feature against Wales, and have set out to aim the three biggest questions regarding their current sitations with their club; are they playing? Are they playing well? And, will they be playing against Wales?

Let's crack on.

Goalkeepers:

ireland squad wales

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Darren Randolph (West Ham United)

Is he in the team? Yes. Randolph is now firmly West Ham's first choice goalkeeper.
Is he playing well? Yes. While West Ham have been ropey, Daz has been solid and made no glaring errors, always good for a few saves too.
Should he start against Wales? Absolutely.

Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday)

Is he in the team? Yes, he's probably Wednesday's best player.
Is he playing well? Yes. Comfortably one of the best keepers in the division.
Should he start against Wales? No, the job is Darren's to lose.

Colin Doyle (Bradford City)

Is he in the team? Yes. Bradford's number one.
Is he playing well? Going fine, the club got extremely good value for their £1 signing.
Should he start against Wales? No.

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Defenders:

ireland squad wales

Seamus Coleman (Everton)

Is he in the team? Yes he most certainly is.
Is he playing well? Oustandingly. Coleman is Everton's third top scorer with an impressive four league goals, and has popped up with assists too in recent weeks. Our captain is in great form.
Should he start against Wales? What kind of question is that?

Stephen Ward (Burnley)

Is he in the team? Yes, and has been for the last 18 months.
Is he playing well? Yes, Wardinho has had a good season and looks at home in a Burnley defence that does not leak many goals.
Should he start against Wales? Yes.

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Richard Keogh (Derby County)

Is he in the team? Yes, he starts for Derby when fit. Steve McClaren is a big fan.
Is he playing well? He's going fine, without setting the world alight.
Should he start against Wales? Yes, his experience will be needed alongside either Duffy or Clark.

Alex Pearce (Derby County)

Is he in the team? Yes, Pearce has come into favour and plays alongside Keogh.
Is he playing well? His last two performances were a big improvement on a rocky few weeks for the club at the start of the year.
Should he start against Wales? No.

John O'Shea (Sunderland)

Is he in the team? Yes, and has been since the turn of the year.
Is he playing well? Well, Sunderland have turned their form around since he's been back in the side so it's clear he's having an influence, but his pace has been exposed a few times. Still offers something to Ireland.
Should he start against Wales? No, but important for the squad.

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Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United)

Is he in the team? Yes, Clark has been a regular under Rafa Benitez.
Is he playing well? Yes, despite another own goal last week.
Should he start against Wales? Maybe.

Paul McShane (Reading)

Is he in the team? He's been injured lately, but he's the club captain.
Is he playing well? When he has been playing he has been very good for a Reading side eyeing a playoff place.
Should he start against Wales? No.

Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Is he in the team? Yes, he's starting for a side that hope to be playing Premier League football next year.
Is he playing well? He scored last weekend, and has been a mixture of 'excellent' and 'ok' in recent weeks.
Should he start against Wales? Maybe.

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Andy Boyle (Preston North End)

Is he in the team? No.
Is he playing well? Unlike his pal Darren he has not been inserted into the first team just yet.
Should he start against Wales? No.

Midfielders:

ireland squad wales

Aiden McGeady (Preston North End)

Is he in the team? Yes.
Is he playing well? Shockingly, his form has been hit and miss with some good performances in recent weeks. One goal and five assists on the season.
Should he start against Wales? No.

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James McClean (West Bromwich Albion)

Is he in the team? No, McClean no longer starts for West Brom but does feature pretty much every week from the bench.
Is he playing well? After a great few months his form has been hindered by not starting week in, week out, but no cause for concern.
Should he start against Wales? Yes. If anything the lack of starts will make him angrier, and McClean starts for Ireland in this campaign.

James McCarthy

Is he in the team? After beeing totally frozen out he started the last game against Bournemouth.
Is he playing well? Yes, he was terrific against Bournemouth and bagged a goal and an assist.
Should he start against Wales? Touch and go. If he starts regularly for Everton over the next six weeks he should be in, but if not, competition for the place is strong.

Jeff Hendrick (Burnley)

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Is he in the team? Yes, although he won't be for the next three games due to a straight red card at the weekend.
Is he playing well? He had been going just fine, but he cost his team badly with a poor challenge and now will face a spell on the sideline.
Should he start against Wales? Yes.

Glenn Whelan (Stoke City)

Is he in the team? Yes. Glenn Whelan will probably be playing for Stoke in 10 years time.
Is he playing well? Yes, recently gave Paul Pogba a tough day at the office and has been doing his job all season.
Should he start against Wales? Yes, he'll be in Joe Allen's head no doubt.

Harry Arter (Bournemouth)

Is he in the team? Yes, Arter is a key player for Eddie Howe and starts when fit.
Is he playing well? Yes, he bagged a goal against Everton and has been playing well despite the Cherries' up and down form.
Should he start against Wales? It's between him and McCarthy, he's probably in a commanding spot at the moment.

David Meyler (Hull City)

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Is he in the team? Yes, although he has been playing at right back.
Is he playing well? Yes, he's actually a decent right back, and got an assist against Man Utd recently.
Should he start against Wales? No, but a good option off the bench.

Robbie Brady (Burnley)

Is he in the team? He's literally just joined Burnley but already made his first appearance from the bench.
Is he playing well? He had been the subject of criticism from Norwich fans for seemingly not caring but will hopefully be back to his best at his new club.
Should he start against Wales? He can't as he's suspended.

Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City)

Is he in the team? Yes.
Is he playing well? Yes.
Should he start against Wales? Yes.

Callum O'Dowda (Bristol City)

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Is he in the team? Not really.
Is he playing well? After a great start at Bristol City, O'Dowda has been in and out of the team in recent weeks and has just one assist for the season so far.
Should he start against Wales? No.

Jonathan Hayes (Aberdeen)

Is he in the team? Yes, he's a key player for the side sitting behind Celtic.
Is he playing well? Yes, five league goals for the season is a good return for a winger.
Should he start against Wales? No.

Daryl Horgan (Preston North End)

Is he in the team? He's not starting every week, but he's making regular sub appearances.
Is he playing well? Yes, the Preston fans have taken to him already. A good start in England.
Should he start against Wales? No, but there'd be a huge buzz if he came off the bench.

Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa)

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Is he in the team? Yes, has played 90 minutes twice in a week for his new club Villa.
Is he playing well? Absolutely, he's been one of the best players in the Championship.
Should he start against Wales? No, but he's one to watch.

Forwards:

ireland squad wales

Shane Long (Southampton)

Is he in the team? Frustratingly in and out since returning from injury. The signing of Manolo Gabbiadini looks to be a pain in the arse and Charlie Austin should return from injury before too long. Not ideal.
Is he playing well? Yes, as he bagged a winner at Anfield recently, scored against Swansea, and does what Shane Long does the rest of the time.
Should he start against Wales? Yes.

Jonathan Walters (Stoke City)

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Is he in the team? No, big Jon has been injured and missed the last four games, but was on a great run of starts before that.
Is he playing well? He had been before the injury, bagging goals against Liverpool and Burnley.
Should he start against Wales? If fit, yes.

Adam Rooney (Aberdeen)

Is he in the team? Yes.
Is he playing well? He's only got two goals since the start of December, but has 11 for the season in all competitions.
Should he start against Wales? No.

David McGoldrick (Ipswich Town)

Is he in the team? A sporadic starter under Mick McCarthy.
Is he playing well? Awful against Derby recently but otherwise has been decent. Bagged an assist against Reading at the weekend.
Should he start against Wales? No.

In conclusion, it's looking well. The form of Seamus Coleman, Darren Randolph, Harry Artur, and Jeff Hendrick before his red card are reasons to be very positive, while both James McCarthy and Shane Long appear to be back in form after lengthy spells out of the team.

Jon Walters is out only real injury concern at this moment in time (touch wood), and James McClean's minutes are perhaps a cause for concern, although it's not likely to bother him one bit once he meets up with his international teammates.

Mikey Traynor

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