After Stephen Kenny named his home-based training squad on Thursday many fans may still be wondering who the future senior manager has at his disposal.
The majority of Noel King’s charges from the last campaign are now ineligible as they were born after the 1st of January 1998. Thankfully, Kenny has one of the most exciting pool of young Irish players to choose from in years with many comparisons with Irish youth teams of the 1990s that produced the likes of Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Andy Reid.
There are players at top clubs who are making an impression domestically and should get their chance with Kenny’s youths.
Given the strength in depth for Ireland’s under 19 side, Tom Mohan may sanction a number of players to make the step up in age grade with Troy Parrot and Adam Idah two players who will not be phased at under-21 level.
Kenny will also consider a number of League of Ireland players, who may impress in the training squad, and perhaps some exciting Irish eligible players from the UK and beyond.
We give an in-depth analysis of the exciting pool of players Kenny could call upon for the campaign.
With highly rated Kieran O’Hara now overage, the baton could be passed to Liverpool stopper Caoimhin Kelleher.
Eligible for two years, the 20-year-old has already received a senior call up. Manchester City born Gavin Bazunu could also find himself fast-tracked given the fact he has played senior European football with Shamrock Rovers.
David Craddock of Aberdeen and Bournemouth’s Mark Travers are the other options with the latter already featuring on the bench for the Cherries this season.
Burnley’s George McMahon is well regarded but may be behind the aforementioned options at present.
Ireland are blessed with young defenders at some of Europe’s top clubs with Conor Masterson (Liverpool), Lee O’Connor (Manchester United) Tyreke Wilson, Ryan Corrigan (both Manchester City) and Ryan Nolan (Inter Milan) all in the frame to feature for Kenny.
Darragh Leahy and Andy Lyons (Both Bohemians), John Mahon (Sligo Rovers) and Liam Scales of UCD are domestic defenders who Kenny could draft in with Ipswich’s Barry Cotter, Burnley’s James Clarke and Brighton’s Warren O’Hora, other capable options.
Southampton duo Thomas O’Connor and Aaron O’Driscoll have a tremendous partnership at the famous Southampton academy and could also be considered.
When he returns from injury, Trevor Clarke of Shamrock Rovers will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting prospects in the squad and can cover both the left wing and left back positions.
Luca Connell of Bolton has also broken into the Championship side and will be eager to be involved as will Corey O’Keefe of Birmingham City who can play across the back four and in midfield.
Connor Ronan (Wolves) and Jake Doyle-Hayes (Aston Villa) should be retained in the squad with the addition of some exciting talents.
Doyle-Hayes’ club-mate Callum O’Hare is a real talent and qualifies on the granny rule which Kenny could utilise given his potential as well as Reading’s Josh Barrett who has been involved with the under-21s.
Another granny rule prospect is Ryan Johansson of Bayern Munich who, despite having a change of heart after representing Ireland’s under 19s, seems back on board after putting in a man of the match display for Luxembourg’s under-21 side.
He could line up against Luxembourg or his father’s country of birth, Sweden in the qualifiers. Crystal Palace man Kian Flanagan and Callum Nicell of Leeds are both on the periphery of their clubs first teams and could also break into Kenny’s side.
Kenny could tempt Armstrong Okoflex of Celtic from the clutches of England with the former St.Kevin’s player on the verge of a breakthrough at Celtic Park.
Under 19 players Adam O’Reilly (Preston), Conor Coventry (West Ham), Jayson Molumby (Brighton), Aaron Bolger and Brandon Kavanagh (Both Shamrock Rovers) could be fast-tracked with Zack Elbouzedi who recently returned to Ireland with Waterford F.C to reignite his career, a genuine talent who could come in.
Bohs duo Luke Wade-Slater and Robbie McCourt, Drogheda’s Thomas Byrne and Neil Farrugia of UCD are domestic-based players with all the talent to play for the under-21s with Will Fitzgerald of Limerick namechecked by Kenny as a potential call up.
Some outside options could also come in the form of FC Dordrecht duo Simon Power (on loan from Norwich) and Australian raised Caoimhin Fowler, Spanish born Marcus Rowley who plays for CF San Felix or Drogheda born Lukas Browning of FC Twente. Conor Tee of Leicester has been compared to Paul Scholes but may feature in the 19s set up first.
Ronan Hale (Crusaders) is the only striker from the last campaign still eligible for Kenny but thankfully there is an array of striking options coming through.
Tom Mohan’s under-19s have a top-heavy amount of strikers which may permit some to be fast-tracked with Kenny’s under-21s.
Kenny has spoken of potentially promoting Tottenham’s Troy Parrot should Mick McCarthy not get his hands on him first. Michael Obafemi (Southampton) who is still eligible for the under 19s could drop down from the senior side occasionally and turn out for the under-21s.
Adam Idah of Norwich and Bohemians youngster Ali Reghba (On trial at Leicester) are other possibilities but may be encouraged to remain in the under 18/19 ranks while Liverpool’s Glenn McAuley and Southampton’s Jonathan Afalobi may also have to bide their time.
Many will feel that it will be Aaron Connolly of Brighton who Kenny will want to spearhead his attack. The Galway man has been on fire for Chris Hughton’s under-23 side and has been linked with some high profile moves.
Anthony Scully (West Ham) and goal machine Ryan Cassidy (Watford) could also come in.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena