Mick McCarthy’s squad for the Republic of Ireland’s crucial upcoming EURO 2020 qualifiers has today been announced by the FAI. The big question on Ireland fans minds before the announcement of the squad was ‘who will replace Duffy and Keogh?’ That question has been answered as Blackburn Rovers’ Darragh Lenihan has been called into the Irish squad.
Lenihan has previously earned two senior caps with the Republic of Ireland squad. However, he has never played a competitive game with the Republic of Ireland.
The Dunboyne man is also yet to feature in the Ireland squad under Mick McCarthy. His last appearance in a matchday squad came in a November 2018 Nations League game vs Denmark. Lenihan was an unused substitute in that game. Lenihan’s last appearance in the matchday squad was subsequently also Martin O’Neil’s last game as Republic of Ireland manager.
Lenihan will benefit from the absence of Ireland’s ever-present centre-back duo for this campaign, Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy. Keogh will miss the rest of the season after being injured in a recent drink-driving incident. Meanwhile, Duffy has missed Brighton’s last 3 games due to a calf injury, and has been omitted from McCarthy’s squad.
Lenihan is joined in the squad by fellow central-defenders, Sheffield United’s John Egan and Burnley’s Kevin Long.
Long is playing a division above Lenihan in the football league structure. However, he hasn’t featured in a Premier League game, as of now, this season. McCarthy has emphasised the importance of his players getting game time at club level. Long’s lack of game time will likely count against him ahead of Ireland’s upcoming games.
Enda Stevens has been included in the squad despite being ineligible to play in Ireland’s visit to Georgia. Stevens will be suspended for the first of Ireland’s two upcoming games.
Darragh Lenihan’s clubmate Greg Cunningham has been called into the squad as cover for the left-back position. Though he has featured in matchday squads, Cunningham hasn’t played for Ireland since 2013. He has never played a competitive game for his country.
It is likely that Cunningham is being included purely as a back-up option in Stevens’ absence. Matt Doherty has returned to the upcoming Ireland squad, missing out last month due to injury. Doherty currently plays as a right-back for Wolves. However, he has plenty of experience on the left side of defence. He was Wolves’ first-team left-back between 2015 and 2017, playing in 61 games at left-back over two seasons.
It is likely that Doherty will be deployed on the left for Ireland’s upcoming qualifier vs Georgia. McCarthy also has the options of James McClean and Conor Hourihane for left-back.
McClean has been successfully deployed at left-back for Stoke City this season. He has been one of the best players in a poor Stoke side at left-back. Meanwhile, McCarthy experimented with using Hourihane at left-back in Ireland’s game with Bulgaria this past September. Ireland won that game 3-1.
However Hourihane may be more valuable in Ireland’s midfield. Hourihane has impressed as a deep-lying playmaker in McCarthy’s squad. He is arguably the best passer in the Irish squad. While he would get crossing opportunities from the left-back position, he is a natural centre-midfielder. Hourihane’s quality on the ball and reading of the game may ultimately be wasted at left-back.
Ireland’s midfield remains the same as it was last time out. Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne has retained his place in the squad. Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick will likely make up the Irish midfield for the upcoming games.
The last notable absentee from the Irish squad is Sheffield United forward David McGoldrick. McGoldrick has played in all of Ireland’s EURO 2020 qualifiers. However he has missed Sheffield United’s last 3 games due to a groin injury. As of now, he will miss Ireland’s upcoming games.
This will provide a chance for Ireland’s other forwards to make themselves heroes in Ireland’s crucial EURO 2020 qualifiers. Luton Town’s James Collins scored in Ireland’s last game vs Bulgaria in September. This was the 28 year-old’s first international appearance. He may be given his first competitive appearance vs Georgia.
The full Ireland 24-man squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Mark Travers, Kieran O’Hara
Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Matt Doherty, Kevin Long, John Egan, Darragh Lenihan, Greg Cunningham, Enda Stevens
Midfielders: Alan Browne, Josh Cullen, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, James McClean, Ronan Curtis, Jeff Hendrick, Callum O’Dowda, Jack Byrne
Forwards: James Collins, Sean Maguire, Callum Robinson, Alan Judge, Scott Hogan
We predict that Ireland will line-up as follows for the Georgia game:
Coleman, Egan, Lenihan, Doherty
Robinson, Hendrick, McClean