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The Irish Starting XI That Should Take On France And The One That Probably Will

The Irish Starting XI That Should Take On France And The One That Probably Will
By Gary Reilly
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Wes Hoolahan is a wonderful footballer that Ireland are lucky to be able to call upon, but does that necessarily mean he should start against France?

Many would say yes and then promptly call anyone who asks that question an absolute gobshite, and that's fine. It's completely understandable but it's still a question that Martin O'Neill will definitely be asking himself over he coming days. Perhaps the Norwich man should be the first name on the team sheet but we saw a midfield on Wednesday night that hinted at something a bit different.

A major tournament isn't a time to look to the future but that's exactly what we were able to do on Wednesday. A midfield trio of McCarthy, Brady and Hendrick was absolutely thrilling to see. It was young, dynamic and above all, incredibly successful. So why should that change against France.

Hoolahan's problem isn't particularly to do with the Brady/Hendrick axis though. It's more to do with the need to get Daryl Murphy into the team. With Shane Long up front on his own, we need Hoolahan to get as close to him as possible. We need him as a dynamic number 10.

However, with Murphy up front, Hoolahan's importance lessens. The onus falls on Long to take a step slightly deeper and use his pace to get in and around the Waterford man. It feels dirty to say it, but Hoolahan from the bench may, once again be the way to go.

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Similarly, with Brady's performance on Wednesday, we'd love to forget about the left back experiment. He may do a job there but it's not the job we need him to do. If Ward is indeed out, let Christie take it. Likewise, we can only assume that O'Shea was rested on Wednesday. There's no need to think that Keogh offers anything more than the Sunderland man going forward so get him back in there.

Preferred Ireland team to face France

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But what will O'Neill actually do?

Whelan will likely be back in. That's not the worse thing in the world. He'll shackle Pogba as well as can be expected and we won't lose much but it would be great to see McCarthy given full control of the deep lying midfield role. But if Whelan is to return, it's unlikely that O'Neill will want to lose the Everton man's athleticism in the middle. In other words, a switch back to the right of a midfield duo alongside Hendrick with Brady resuming his left back role.

Predicted Ireland team to face France

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In truth, it's very difficult to second guess O'Neill but after Wednesday's performance, it's going to be very difficult for him to go back to the diamond formation in midfield. Daryl Murphy has proven that he's the best option up front while James McClean's incredibly mature performance means it's time to put full trust in him on the left.

We don't envy O'Neill having to make the decision though. Leaving Wes Hoolahan out is going to damage me for the rest of the day. I feel dirty for even thinking it.

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