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The Six Ireland Players Who Really Have Something To Prove Over The Next Week

The Six Ireland Players Who Really Have Something To Prove Over The Next Week
By Gary Reilly Updated

Every professional footballer has something to prove when it comes to the international break. You're at that level for a reason and you need to prove, time and time again, that you deserve to be at that level. However, it would be stupid to ignore the fact that this week, more than any other, sees quite a few Irish players come into the squad with quite a lot to prove.

Granted, you have the likes of Jonny Hayes and Matt Doherty who have been given the chance to prove that they're ready to step up to that level. However, with Euro 2016 on the horizon, we're going to look past the players who are more than likely there for the experience and look to those who can make a mark on the final 23 man squad.

Rob Elliot

What he has to prove: Being a Premier League starter should put him in contention for the number one jersey.

When O'Neill dropped Westwood from the squad, it became fairly clear that it's between Given, Forde and Elliot for the two remaining goalkeeping spots. Essentially, it really should just be between Forde and Given for the final spot. Ireland have a goalkeeper who's playing regularly in the Premier League. In truth, when Given's inevitable decline began, we all thought it would be quite a while before we could say that again.

However, Elliot has emerged as Newcastle's number one this season and, along with Darren Randolph's ever dependent displays, Ireland's goalkeeping situation looks significantly rosier than it did this time last year. But the question still has to be asked, can Elliot do more?

In the past, there have been occasions where he has returned to Newcastle with minor injuries but this time around O'Neill has confirmed that Elliot will definitely start one of the games. It's up to him to prove that he has what it takes to wrestle that jersey away from Darren Randolph.


Shane Duffy

What he has to prove: Ireland's lack of options at centre back is not that big of a problem.

Ireland's lack of options at centre back is a problem. There's no point denying that. Not one of O'Shea, Keogh, Wilson or Clark can say that they're thoroughly satisfied with how their season is going. The opportunity to bring back Damien Delaney presented itself but when Martin O'Neill decided there was no going back on that, it all fell on Shane Duffy's shoulders to prove that we don't have to stick with the status quo.


Wilson is injured and had barely played all season. Clark has found it hard to get into one of the worst ever Premier League teams. O'Shea's fighting a battle to keep his place in a poor Sunderland defence and Keogh's form has been up and down at best. It's not something to fill anyone with a great deal of confidence. However, Duffy's form for Blackburn shows that there may be a genuine alternative.

We've been banging on about it for long enough and now the opportunity is finally here to see if the former Everton man can edge either Clark or Wilson out of the squad and maybe even edge Keogh out of the starting lineup. Out of everyone in the squad, Duffy has perhaps the most to gain over the next seven days.

Stephen Ward


What he has to prove: We don't need to rely on Robbie Brady at left back.

Against Bosnia in Zenica, Stephen Ward ran himself into the ground and it showed. He looked like a man who had barely played in months and that's because he hadn't. He was out of favour at Turf Moor and he was making all the right noises about getting himself a move away in January. But, he's since regained his position at left back for Burnley and Martin O'Neill must be bloody delighted to see things falling into place just in time for the summer.

The Robbie Brady at left back experiment has had some highs and lows but, if he has any real choice, O'Neill needs to look at moving the Norwich man further forward when we get to France. That situation, is entirely dependent on Ward's ability to show that he can do an adequate job at left back.


If the former Bohs man can prove his credentials now that he's fully match fit, not only can we forget about Brady's questionable defensive positioning but we can look forward to see what he can do to the likes of Italy and Sweden when he's given licence to affect the game further up the field.

David Meyler 

What he has to prove: He's more than a useful stopgap measure.


Meyler, Arter and Judge. As far as we can see, two of those players will be on the plane to France and one will be stuck at home. Hendrick is as good as set and he can fill in across the midfield but then you have the decision whether to go with the two more creative options or accept that Meyler is good enough in every department to be the sensible option.

Meyler needs to show that he's better than good enough. Arter's injury means that, although he's quite possibly Ireland's best performing midfielder this season, he's yet to be given the opportunity to really impress in an Irish jersey. For all the suggestions that he's not out of contention, that's far from an ideal situation heading into a major championship. Which is where the onus moves on to Meyler to show that, not only can he act as a backup to McCarthy and Whelan but he can affect the game going forward in the same way that Arter can.

There's going to come a time when O'Neill will look to withdraw Wes Hoolahan and pack the midfield while still maintaining an attacking threat, if Meyler can slot into that role as well as Arter or Judge, there's a seat on the plane waiting for him.


Alan Judge 

What he has to prove: He's more than just a vague idea of what Ireland could have.

Thirteen Championship goals, regular man of the match displays and suggestions that a Premier League move is juts around the corner. And yet he still doesn't have an Ireland cap to his name. If ever there was a man to pin some unrealistic hopes on it's Alan Judge.

We all love the idea of a bolter coming out of nowhere and transforming the squad ahead of a major tournament. Sven Goran Eriksson took it to the extreme when he selected Theo Walcott in 2006 but we've also seen it with the clamour to get James McClean included ahead of Euro 2012. The idea that there's an attacker out there ready to be let loose on the biggest stage is very appealing but the reality can often be rather different. Walcott never played in 2006 and McClean played the grand total of fifteen minutes at Euro 2012.

Judge is a different prospect given the fact that he's 27 but there is the legitimate worry that the expectation of what he can do for Ireland is not matched by reality. As we've said above, there is still a serious chance that he could make the final squad but an awful lot of that rests on how he performs over the next two games. The temptation will be to get on the ball and try and make magic happen at every opportunity but if the Dubliner can control that and fit into the system in the way that Martin O'Neill will no doubt want him to, there's no reason why he can't be more than just a name to bandy around for the sake of it.

Aiden McGeady

What he has to prove: That Martin O'Neill is right to trust him.

Aiden McGeady is going to the Euros, probably. At least we can say with some certainty that Martin O'Neill wants Aiden McGeady to go to the Euros. The problem is that, for all the suggestions that he just needed to leave Everton and play first team football, he hasn't been particularly impressive for Sheffield Wednesday since his move down to the Championship.

He needed to be fit, he needed to be confident. And the way to get that to happen would be to take the loan move away for Everton and forget about Premier League football for six months for the sake of his Euro 2016 ambitions. So what happens if he does that but still doesn't make the squad?

With his club form mediocre at best, these friendlies are now crucial for McGeady in a way that they really shouldn't be. He divides opinion like no other but for all his experience and his ability to create something out of nothing, the former Celtic man really should be in the squad. However, O'Neill is nothing if not a pragmatist and if McGeady once again fails to deliver against Switzerland and/or Slovakia, it could be be curtains for his hopes of making it to another European Championships.

See also: If Premier League Managers Were...Priests In Father Ted

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