The Republic of Ireland squad for their crucial upcoming qualifiers vs Georgia and Switzerland was announced earlier today. One of the big talking points ahead of the squad announcement was Ireland’s defence. Ireland’s centre-back pairing of Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh will both miss the upcoming qualifiers.
Another problem-position in the Irish defence ahead of the upcoming qualifiers has been left-back. Ireland’s first choice left-back Enda Stevens will be suspended for Ireland’s game vs Georgia. Mick McCarthy has subsequently called upon Blackburn Rovers’ Greg Cunningham to provide cover for the position. Bookmaker bet365 predict Ireland to make Euro2020
Mick McCarthy spoke to FAI.ie about his decision to call-up Cunningham. He stated “Greg is one of the most experienced left-backs available to us. He was with us in the summer and he knows what we want.” Cunningham’s experience has been the deciding factor for his inclusion in the Ireland squad. However, regardless of experience, he may not have been the best choice for Ireland’s upcoming squad.
Cunningham’s inclusion in the squad comes at the expense of the inclusion of QPR’s Ryan Manning. Manning has been one of the best left-backs in the Championship this season. He has been a standout player in a QPR side that are looking to challenge for a playoff place.
Manning’s skill-set is well-rounded, having played in a number of different positions throughout his career. He has made the QPR left-back spot his own this season. However, Manning has played all over the midfield over the years.
The 23 year-old Galway man even played as a centre-forward early in his career. Between 2013 and 2014 Manning made 23 League of Ireland first-division appearances as a centre-forward for both Mervue United and Galway United, respectively.
According to Whoscored.com, Manning has made more key-passes than any other left-back in the Championship this season, with 22. The player with the next most key-passes from left-back, Reading’s Omar Richards, has just 14. Even more impressively, Manning also has the 4th highest amount of key-passes in the league for all players.
Manning has 2 assists to his name from QPR’s opening 9 games, which is also the highest of any left-back.
Manning isn’t just an attacking force however. He has also shown very solid defensive capabilities this season. He has made the second highest amount of interceptions of any left-back with 12. He has also made the third highest amount of successful tackles in the league, making 21 so far this season.
McCarthy has discussed how Cunningham’s experience has helped him to make his decision. However, McCarthy also previously emphasised the importance he places on his international selections getting regular game time at club level.
Manning has been an ever-present for QPR this season, starting in all 11 of their competitive games. Cunningham has missed out on 3 of Blackburn’s league fixtures this season. Considering Manning has played more often, and impressed more in a better team, it is somewhat surprising that he has missed out on a call-up.
Cunningham may ultimately only feature as a substitute for Ireland’s upcoming games. However, given his current form, Ryan Manning is beginning to become a glaring omission from Ireland’s squad. He should be in consideration for McCarthy’s future squads.