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The Irish Team That Should Face The North Tomorrow Night

The Irish Team That Should Face The North Tomorrow Night
By Gavin Cooney Updated

It is a curious week for the Republic of Ireland. With the rugby side the main show in town, even Ireland's competitive half of this international window could prove moot before they so much as pack their bags for the Nations League game against Denmark in Aarhus.

If Wales don't beat Denmark in Cardiff on Friday, Ireland will be relegated regardless of their own result against the Danes. Before that, an Aviva clash with Northern Ireland 25 years on from the tense clash at Windsor Park which ended with the Republic qualifying for the 1994 World Cup.

The tensions today are thankfully nothing like they were a quarter-century ago, and neither are the sporting stakes. That doesn't mean the game is of no benefit to Martin O'Neill, however, and it offers the chance for a bit of experimentation.

While the likes of Michael Obafemi cannot be tied to Ireland for good with an appearance in this game, it will serve the benefit of offering him an introduction to the rigours of senior international football.

This writer believes this would be best-served as a cameo from the bench, as this is our preferred selection for the friendly. Do you agree? Do get in touch.

Formation: 3-5-2 

Little other than discord and defeat has been achieved in the last year, but the only notable tactical change Martin O'Neill has made this year has been the introduction of a back three that has come and gone and then returned to favour. This offers the opportunity to massage it further, and hopefully bolt on an attacking strategy.

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Goalkeeper - Caoimhin Kelleher 

It may seem premature to parachute Kelleher in given his senior experience amounts to pre-season appearances with Liverpool, but given O'Neill's alternative options, it would be a worthwhile exercise. Darren Randolph is first-choice, and in spite of playing the games prior to the Nations League, Colin Doyle has yet to displace him. This is an opportunity to see what Kelleher can do.

Right wing-back: Seamus Coleman

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Matt Doherty is an injury doubt, meaning the captain should play. Owing to injury, we have actually seen little of Coleman in a wing-back role this year for Ireland, and given that he is often one of our best attacking threats, he could be a major asset in that role.

Centre-backs: Shane Duffy, John Egan, Kevin Long

Duffy is worth keeping in the team given Kelleher's inexperience, while Kevin Long played improved as the left-sided of the trio even in the days between the recent games with Wales and Denmark, and should, therefore, be given the opportunity to improve further. The third should be relatively untried, so Egan gets our nod over Darragh Lenihan.

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Left wing-back: Enda Stevens 

Ireland are spoilt for choice at right wing-back, but relatively impoverished on the opposite flank. James McClean is wasted there, while the returning Robbie Brady is better served close to Jeff Hendrick in midfield. Stevens has been playing that role with some distinction for Sheffield United, and if this game is a chance to work on a system of play, then Stevens should play the bulk of the game with a view to starting in Denmark.

Midfield three: Glen Whelan/Shaun Williams, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady 

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Glen Whelan will start his farewell game and is expected to make way midway through the first-half, at which point we reckon Williams deserves his shot. Jeff Hendrick has had a peripatetic career in the Irish midfield, but he has been at his best when one of an advanced midfield duo in a midfield three. That is all the better when the other half of that duo is Robbie Brady, whose return is an enormous fillip for Martin O'Neill.

Strikers: James McClean and Sean Maguire 

McClean is suspended for the Denmark game and has still linked up with the squad: this wasn't a game he was ever going to miss and given his travails at Stoke, a start on Thursday should do him some good. Maguire, meawhile, has had a couple of false starts at international level owing to injury meaning that when Ireland needed him at home to Wales last month, he was off the pace. Maguire needs as many minutes at this level as he can get.

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See Also: A New Documentary Makes You Ask - How Did We Let Brian Kerr Go?


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