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The Overlooked Defenders That Ireland Need To Keep In Mind For Euro 2016

The Overlooked Defenders That Ireland Need To Keep In Mind For Euro 2016
By Gary Reilly Updated

We're not going to sugar coat it. Five months out from Euro 2016, we're worried and we have every reason to be. Last weekend's club action brought to the fore something that has been bubbling away ever since we deservingly edged our way past Bosnia. We're heading to France with our biggest weakness strikingly similar to our ultimate undoing in Euro 2012.

Giovanni Trapattoni brought us to Poland on the back of a solid if unspectacular qualifying campaign. We may not have been exciting but we were tough to beat. We were organised, we could score on the break and above all we had Richard Dunne.

That may sound like some jokey revisionism but the truth is, a lot of our defensive structure was based around Dunne doing what he did in Moscow and carrying us through with a clean sheet in tact. It worked in qualifying and it failed miserably when it really came down to it.

Ireland's porous defence was exposed for what it was and we looked every bit the worst team at Euro 2012. This time around, you'd like to think things have changed but we're really not sure they have. James McCarthy's performance against Germany would suggest that, when on form, we have one of the most effective midfielder screeners in Europe in our midst and Glenn Whelan is fairly effective alongside him.

The central defensive partnership of O'Shea and Keogh is something that we need to worry about. The simple fact of the matter is that it's unlikely any Irish defender will be able to do enough between now and May to interrupt that partnership. And that's a worry.

Keogh in particular is a worry. While his will to win is unquestionable, the reality of the situation is that, when he comes up against Romelu Lukaku or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we'll all be on the edge of our seat because anything is liable to happen. We'd love to be proven wrong and his performances against Germany and Bosnia show that it's possible but the main problem is that there's no viable alternative at the moment.

With Ciaran Clarke and Marc Wilson on the periphery of things at their clubs, Martin O'Neill has got to be looking elsewhere for defensive reinforcements and if he is, it must be said, there's not too many places he can be looking. Essentially we've boiled it down to two possible options with a third that's effectively impossible but which we wanted to include anyway.

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Shane Duffy

Front and centre. If he doesn't add to his one cap during the March friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia then something is wrong. Having been earmarked as one to watch since his early days at Everton, Northern Ireland were rightfully pissed off when he decided to declare for the Republic but since then he's managed just a single Ireland cap against Costa Rica in 2014.

A freak injury sustained during Ireland duty back in 2010 set his development back somewhat after he had to undergo life saving surgery on a damaged liver. However, he recovered from that remarkably quickly but he was never able to establish himself in the Everton first team and eventually he took the decision to move to Blackburn in 2014.

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Sitting in the bottom half of the Championship may not be ideal for Blackburn, but in Duffy and Grant Hanley they have a central defensive partnership that belies some of their results. A recent injury gave fellow Irish defender Darragh Lenihan the chance to impress but Duffy is back in the Blackburn team and is surely worth some serious consideration ahead of Euro 2016.

Tommie Hoban 

If Duffy is the likely bolter in defence then Tommie Hoban is the outside bet at being an outside bet. Given that he's just returning from four months of injury troubles, it would be an awful lot to expect someone who's never played a Premier League game to force himself into the Watford team in time to make an impact on Martin O'Neill's thinking.

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Nonetheless, stranger things have happened and it's not inconceivable that Hoban will be given a chance to impress by Quique Sanchez Flores after he had made the right back slot his own at Vicarage Road last season. If the recently turned 22 year old does establish himself at Watford then Martin O'Neill won't mind whether it's in the centre of defence or on the right but his performances in the Championship last season would suggest that he may be one to keep an eye on.

And even if it's not at Watford this season, his slim hopes of playing himself into contention may not be dead as Birmingham City are thought to be looking at taking him to St Andrews on a short term loan.


 

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And just for the sake of it...

Damien Delaney

An Irish central defender, playing in a decently performing Premier League team? Throw a cap on that man quick and get him in the squad. The only problem is that he's already been capped and he's effectively, if not definitively, announced his retirement from international football.

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We're not sure what would make him change his mind but if he was willing to do it for his country, perhaps a grovelling Roy Keane begging him to come back? It doesn't seem likely.

See also: Ireland's Biggest Euro 2016 Worry Became All Too Clear This Weekend

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