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Crafting The Republic Of Ireland's Depth Chart Ahead Of The March Friendlies

Crafting The Republic Of Ireland's Depth Chart Ahead Of The March Friendlies
By Gary Connaughton Updated

We are officially in the month of March and that can only mean one thing: the return of international football.

While Ireland will not play any competitive fixtures this month, the two friendlies against Belgium and Lithuania are sure to draw a huge amount of interest. Stephen Kenny's side ended 2021 in fine form and will be using these games to fine tune the team ahead of four UEFA Nations League fixtures in June.

How is the squad shaping up ahead of the games in a couple of weeks?

We have attempted to answer that question, putting together a Republic of Ireland depth chart to give us an idea of how the team could look later this month.

Firstly, a couple of caveats. We have only included players who are likely to be available for these two fixtures, meaning injured squad members such as Adam Idah, Andrew Omobamidele, and Enda Stevens have not been considered.

In order to rank the players, their recent club form, previous international form, and status within Stephen Kenny's squad have all been considered.

The positions used relate to the 3-4-2-1 formation favoured by Stephen Kenny towards the end of 2021. While some players may be able to fill more than one position, they have only been included in one spot in this article.

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With all of that sorted out, here's what we came up with.

Republic of Ireland Depth Chart

Goalkeeper

1. Gavin Bazunu

2. Caoimhín Kelleher

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3. Mark Travers

Without doubt, this is Ireland's deepest position at the moment.

Both Mark Travers and Caoimhín Kelleher have cases to be first choice. Travers has starred in the Championship this season, acting as one of Bournemouth's top players in their promotion push. Kelleher's opportunities have been limited at Liverpool, although he has faced the highest level of competition of the bunch and has led the club to a major trophy.

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However, Bazunu has his hands on the no. 1 jersey for now. He has been flawless thus far at international level, while his club form more than justifies him keeping his place in the side.

While Portsmouth goalkeeper remains first choice, it would be a surprise if we were not to see at least one of the other goalkeepers feature in the friendlies this month.

 

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Right Centre Back

1. Nathan Collins

2. Dara O'Shea

3. Mark McGuinness

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Nathan Collins only has one brief substitute appearance at international level to his name up to this point, but that will surely change in the weeks ahead.

With Andrew Omobamidele set to miss out due to injury, his form for Burnley in his debut Premier League campaign means he has jumped right up the pecking order.

O'Shea has only just returned from injury himself and has been mostly consigned to the bench in recent weeks, while McGuinness has played himself into the Ireland fold with his form for Cardiff City this season.

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Centre Back

1. Shane Duffy

2. Darragh Lenihan

3. Kevin Long

Shane Duffy remains the obvious choice here despite finding himself in and out of the Brighton team in recent months.

Darragh Lenihan certainly has a claim for an international recall, starring for Blackburn Rovers in their promotion push in the Championship.

Left Centre Back

1. John Egan

2. Jimmy Dunne

3. Liam Scales

John Egan has been among the most impressive performers during the Stephen Kenny era and remains one of the first names on the team sheet.

Dunne has been in impressive form for QPR in the Championship as of late and should be included in the squad. Scales is improving at Celtic but finds himself a bit behind the others as things currently stand.

Right Wingback

1. Seamus Coleman

2. Festy Ebosele

3. Cyrus Christie

We have moved Matt Doherty to the left here, meaning Seamus Coleman is the obvious choice in this position.

Festy Ebosele should be in line for a first international call-up after his displays for Derby County this season and you would expect him to earn a cap against Lithuania.

Left Wingback

1. Matt Doherty

2. Ryan Manning

3. James McClean

Matt Doherty has been steadily improving at Spurs in recent times, playing on both the right and left wings under Antonio Conte. It makes sense to play him on the left here, with the Dubliner a hugely important player under Stephen Kenny.

Manning and McClean are the other two options in this season, both of whom have had strong seasons at club level. Of course, McClean could also be used a bit further up the pitch.

Centre Midfield (1)

1. Josh Cullen

2. Alan Browne

3. Jayson Molumby

Josh Cullen has established himself as an automatic started over the last 18 months or so, displaying remarkable consistency for both Ireland and Anderlecht during this time.

Browne and Molumby are two other excellent options to have in this position and have played well in the Championship this season.

Centre Midfield (2)

1. Jeff Hendrick

2. Jason Knight

3. Conor Hourihane

Jason Knight is pushing Jeff Hendrick all the way for this spot in the side, although the on-loan QPR midfielder just manages to hold onto it due to his excellent performances for Ireland towards the end of 2021.

Knight is also an option in a move advanced position and should get plenty of game time at international level in the months ahead.

Forward (1)

1. Troy Parrott

2. Jamie McGrath

3. Ronan Curtis

Jamie McGrath was first choice in this position towards the end of last year, although that could be about to change. The Meath man has played only twice in the last two months, picking up an injury soon after his move to Wigan Athletic. He is now fit again but did not come off the bench in their fixture at the weekend.

Troy Parrott has not been finding the back of the net at MK Dons, but every other area of his game has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few months. He could well be given another opportunity by Stephen Kenny in the Belgium game.

 

Forward (2)

1. Chiedozie Ogbene

2. Aaron Connolly

3. Daryl Horgan

Chiedozie Ogebene may only have won five Ireland caps up to this point in his career, but his form in those games means it impossible to leave him out of the team.

The Rotherham man is an absolute nightmare for opposition defenders, with his pace a real asset to the team. He has also displayed an eye for goal, already finding the back of the net twice for Ireland.

Aaron Connolly is back in contention after some decent displays since his loan move to Middlesbrough in January.

 

Striker 

1. Callum Robinson

2. Will Keane

3. Michael Obafemi

Robinson has been struggling for goals at club level, although his international form in the latter half of 2021 means he has to be in the team. It may not necessarily be in this position, with the West Brom man capable of playing a bit deeper in this system.

In Will Keane and Michael Obafemi, Ireland have two strikers in fantastic form.

Keane has scored 18 goals for Wigan Athletic this season, while Obafemi has been excellent for Swansea City since the turn of the year. That run includes two goals and an assist at the weekend, with the 21-year old being included in the Championship team of the week as a result and he will surely earn a first Ireland call-up since 2018 in the next couple of weeks.

 

The Squad In Full

When you put all those names down, it is clear that Ireland's depth has greatly improved over the last couple of years. Add in the likes of Idah, Omobamidele, and Stevens and you have an even more impressive group.

Of course, there are a number of players not included that could yet break through in the months ahead. The likes of Gavin Kilkenny, Conor Coventry, Joel Bagan, and Evan Ferguson are just some of the young players that have an opportunity to make their international debut over the course of 2022. Zak Elbouzedi and Connor Ronan are two more options that have played under Kenny at U21 level.

It certainly looks as though there could be some exciting times ahead for this group.

SEE ALSO: It's Time For Stephen Kenny To Hand Michael Obafemi An Ireland Recall

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