There's nothing more we like doing here at Balls.ie than a bit of wild speculation about the future. With that in mind we took a look into our patented Balls.ie crystal ball and came up with what the Ireland team could look like at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
As reigning European Champions a lot is expected of the Republic of Ireland team as they look to add the 2022 World Cup and cement their place as the world’s top team. We profile the likely starting XI for the first game against Jose Mourinho’s England in Qatar.
Manager; Richard Dunne
42 year old Dunne hasn’t looked back since becoming manager in what journalists have described as the “greatest show of player power since the abolition of minimum wage”. As leader of the coup against then-manager Giovanni Trapatonni in 2014, Dunne was appointed manager for fear of retribution by FAI head John Delaney. After Ireland won the European Championship in 2020, Delaney hailed the appointment as his greatest achievement and wore a special Richard Dunne shaped tie for the occasion. Dunne’s revolutionary 4-4-2 formation is now being copied all around the world.
Goalkeeper; Aaron McCarey (Leeds United)
The 30 year old Monaghan native has had a long and chequered career but finally won the Irish number one jersey from Kieran Westwood was forced to retire after the 2020 Euros. His excellent form for Leeds United over the past 2 season have earned him interest from the likes of Limerick as they look to reach the last 16 of the Champions League having knocked on the door so often recently.
Right back; Noe Babe (Fulham)
Cameroon-born Noe is set to win his 100th cap during the tournament and is still only 26. Since moving to Fulham in 2012 he has gone from strength to strength and is universally recognised as the best right back in the world. He is expected to join Bayern Munich after the World Cup.
Left back; James McClean (Celtic
33 year old McClean is looking forward to his first major tournament since the 2012 Euros. After receiving a year-long ban for ‘graphic and/or overtly political tattoos’ in the 2016 FIFA regulations that aimed to stop the widespread use of full facial tattoos by professional footballers (after the 2015 sleeve tattoo ban was deemed a failure), McClean has embraced his new role as UN Peace envoy with the same vigour as he did with his new left back role with Celtic.
Centre backs; Shane “Lenny” Duffy & Carl “Carl” McHugh (both Everton)
The Ulster pairing has been inseparable and unbeatable since McHugh’s move to Everton in 2017. As the backbone of the Champions League winning team in 2020, the partnership has continued to be compared to great Italian double-acts such as Nesta/Cannavaro etc. Unlike the Italians though, Lenny & Carl are also best friends off the pitch and have recently opened a school of excellence in the Derry/Donegal region in the hopes of fostering similar cross community spirit
Centre Midfield; Barry McNamee (Paris St Germain)
The former Derry City man has flourished under Arsene Wenger at PSG and his midfield partnership with David Luiz has been described as the hairiest as well as the most creative since the Xavi-Iniesta Barca axis of a decade ago.
Centre Midfield; Kenneth McEvoy (Real Madrid)
Since his surprising move to Real Madrid as part of the Gareth Bale €100 million deal in 2013, McEvoy has established himself as more than just “the guy who looks like Bale so we might as well sign him” as Madrid president Florentino Perez described him at the time. The La Liga title won this year is the first major honour of the Pep Guardiola Real Madrid era.
Right Wing; Chris Forrester (Arsenal)
After his move from St Pats in 2016, Forrester took time to adjust to the slower pace of football in England but recovered and has helped maintain Arsenal’s proud record of finishing 3rd or 4th for 15 straight years. Winner of the Premier League’s goal of the year for the past 4 seasons, his Panenka style penalty in the Euro semi finals against Germany is still a career highlight.
Left Wing; Robbie Brady (Manchester United)
After the disastrous David Moyes era at Man Utd ended in 2015, the re-instated Alex Ferguson went about building a new squad and made United old boy Robbie Brady his first signing. Brady’s wing wizardry helped re-ignite the United attack and they finished safely in midtable those first few years. After steady improvement, Brady’s United finally qualified for the Champions’ League this season
Centre Forward; Graham Burke (Aston Villa)
Aston Villa’s record goal scorer Burke was the hero in 2020 as Ireland defeated Russia to claim the European title. After impressing for Aston Villa in the 2013 NextGen series, Burke got his chance in the Premier League and hasn’t stopped scoring since. Despite repeatedly being linked with bigger clubs he has stayed loyal to Villa and has shone on the International stage for Ireland.
Centre Forward; Robbie Keane (Ah-Ahli)
41 year old Keane is expected to earn his 200th cap against England in the World Cup opener and he needs only 3 more goals to reach the magical 100 mark for Ireland. In his 4th year in Dubai, Keane’s contract limits him to 10 club games a year and he has concentrated on his international career since leaving LA Galaxy for Shamrock Rovers in 2015. He will become the oldest player to appear in a World Cup, 20 years after his first appearance.
It promises to be a terrific tournament for Ireland and you can catch it all on Balls TV.