The Republic of Ireland’s 25 man squad for their upcoming games vs Switzerland and Bulgaria was announced late last week. Ireland will host Switzerland at the Aviva for Thursday’s crucial EURO 2020 qualifier. The following Tuesday, Bulgaria will make the trip to Dublin for an international friendly fixture.
Unfortunately for Mick McCarthy, he has been forced into making some changes to his 25 man squad. The quartet of Wolves full-back Matt Doherty, Crystal Palace midfielder James McCarthy, Preston forward Sean Maguire and Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kieran Westwood have all pulled out of the squad for the upcoming international games.
Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo revealed that Doherty is set to undergo an operation for a minor injury. Maguire and Westwood have also picked up a couple of minor injuries which will keep them out of Ireland’s squad. Meanwhile, James McCarthy’s long awaited return to the Ireland squad will be postponed due to lack of match fitness.
McCarthy has not featured for the national team since 2016. The midfielder’s final years at Everton were plagued by a series of recurring hamstring injuries. Finally, in January 2018, McCarthy suffered a devastating leg break which kept him on the sidelines for over a year. McCarthy played a full 90 minutes in Crystal Palace’s Carabao Cup tie last Tuesday, to the delight of all Irish football fans. It seemed as though McCarthy would be all set to reclaim his role in the heart of Ireland’s midfield this week. However, Mick McCarthy has confirmed that he and Ireland would have to wait to be reunited with the midfielder. The coach confirmed that he and James decided that the “intensity of the game” would be too much for the midfielder at this point.
Mick McCarthy has announced just 3 new additions to the Irish squad following the unfortunate injury issues. Full back Cyrus Christie, goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara and forward James Collins have been added to the squad.
This will be a big opportunity for the three men for different reasons. Christie has 22 caps for the national side and will want to remind McCarthy why he was once a regular squad member. Meanwhile, Manchester United youngster Kieran O’Hara will want to impress on his first call-up to the senior side. This will also be an opportunity for 28 year old Collins to earn his first international appearance. Collins may have thought his international prospects were over. However, despite his age, he has earned his call-up after being named in the League One PFA Team of the Season last season.
The Ireland squad will undoubtedly be weakened by the absence of the four players who have been forced to pull out. However, Irish hopes of extending their lead at the top of Group D are still very much alive. The Swiss have received perhaps even worse team news than Ireland prior to Thursday’s fixture. Star man, Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri has pulled out of the Swiss squad in order “to focus fully on his club” according to a statement made by the Swiss FA on their twitter account. The attacker has started just one of Liverpool’s last 26 matches.
Switzerland will also be without notable players such as Steven Zuber, Djibril Sow and Norwich City’s duo of Timm Klose and Josep Drmic. The absence of these players from the Swiss team will be a big boost to Mick McCarthy. Switzerland reached the semi-finals of this past summer’s UEFA Nations League tournament. They sit 6 points behind Ireland in the group table, but they have also played 2 games less. Similarly to Ireland, the Swiss are still undefeated in the qualifying group thus far. Thursday’s game will be crucial to Ireland’s qualifying hopes, before Ireland travel to Switzerland in the return fixture next month.
Ireland’s new 24 man squad in full is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Kieran O’Hara, Mark Travers
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Captain), Cyrus Christie, Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, John Egan, Kevin Long, Enda Stephens
Midfielders: Alan Judge, Jeff Hendrick, Glenn Whelan, Josh Cullen, Alan Browne, Jack Byrne, Conor Hourihane, James McClean, Callum O’Dowda, Ronan Curtis
Forwards: David McGoldrick, Scott Hogan, James Collins, Callum Robinson