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Seven Fresh Faces Martin O'Neill Should Consider Ahead Of World Cup 2018 Qualifying

By PJ Browne
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The start of Ireland's campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup is less than two weeks away. On September 5th, Martin O'Neill's side take on Serbia in Belgrade.

Before that, he has an opportunity to take a look at some new players when Ireland play Oman in Dublin on August 31st. That is also a game which is likely to be Robbie Keane's final appearance for Ireland.

These are seven players Martin O'Neill should consider when he names his squad for the games.

Joe Mason - forward

In five appearances for Wolves this season, Mason has three goals. Born in Plymouth, Mason has represented Ireland at underage level - the last time being at U21 in 2013.

Given Ireland's dearth of options up front and the promising form of the 25-year-old, it would not be a surprise to see Martin O'Neill name Mason in his squad for the upcoming games.

Conor Hourihane - midfielder

Caveat here, Barnsley have only played four games in the Championship this season. Still, the form of Corkman Conor Hourihane is notable.

According to football stats website WhoScored.com, the 25-year-old is the second highest-rated player in the Championship so far this season. He has an average rating of 8.38, that's just slightly behind Anthony Knockaert of Brighton on 8.50.



Hourinhane also has two goals and two assists to his name this season. He is also a superb free kick taker, check out a superb strike against QPR at the 1:00 mark below.

[Watch Video]

Greg Cunningham - left-back

After playing so well in midfield for Ireland against Italy and France, it looks like Robbie Brady's time playing at left-back for Ireland is up - though he is turning out there for Norwich at the moment.


That leaves the number three shirt up for grabs.

Greg Cunningham, who already has four caps for Ireland, is a prominent option. After an excellent 2015/16 for Preston, Cunningham has started the new season well.


He was named in last weekend's WhoScored.com Championship Team of the Week along with the previously mentioned Joe Mason.



Matt Doherty - left/right-back

In WhoScored.com's Top 5 players of the Championship so far, Ireland has two representatives. There's Conor Hourihane, who we've already mentioned, and Wolves fullback Matt Doherty.

The Dubliner has an average rating of 7.90 this season.

Though right-footed, Doherty has predominantly been playing left-back for Wolves this year. It is a position where he has thrived.

Last season he scored twice, this season he already has one - an excellently taken goal against Reading. You can see it at the 0:50 mark below.


Jack Byrne - midfielder

The signing of Byrne was a real coup for Blackburn. The midfielder was expected to return to the Eredivisie where he played so well with Cambuur last season. Instead, Man City loaned him to the Championship side.

Those watching Blackburn have been impressed with the Dubliner. Paul Wheelock of the Lancashire Telegraph wrote glowingly of the 20-year-old following a League Cup game against Mansfield a fortnight ago.

Jack Byrne looks a player. The on-loan Manchester City midfielder’s passing, in the first half in particular, was razor sharp.

Byrne likes to drop deep, picking up possession off the centre-backs, but there was an instance early on in the tie when he won the won ball high in Mansfield’s half and played in Ben Marshall. That looks where he could make the most impact.

John Egan - centre-back

The Corkman made the move from Gillingham to Brentford - League One to the Championship - during the summer.

He has already made an impact for the Bees. The 24-year-old scored furthered his reputation as a goalscoring centre-back by scored a brace in a 2-0 win against Ipswich.


Beyond the goalscoring, his form has also been impressive for Brentford. He has an average rating of 7.48 this season with WhoScored.com.

Tommy McNamara - midfielder

The New York City FC player has an outside, but not unrealistic chance of getting a call-up by Martin O'Neill. The FAI has already enquired about his eligibility for Ireland. That's not a problem, he's had an Irish passport for more than 10 years.

He already has four goals and nine assists for New York this season. He's particularly notable for scoring some brilliant long-range strikes - including this effort against New York Red Bulls last month.


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