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Five Irish Players With A Point To Prove Under Mick McCarthy

Last week Mick McCarthy decided on his final 23-man squad for Ireland’s European qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia.

The new Irish boss will have a difficult decision over his starting XI as the Boys in Green look to qualify for their third European Championships in a row.

Among McCarthy’s squad are a handful of players with a point to prove, who either struggled under Martin O’Neill or failed to nail down a starting place in the old regime.

Let’s take a look at five players who could have a big impact as Mick McCarthy prepares for his first game back as Ireland manager.


Jeff Hendrick

A rarity in the Irish squad in the sense that he plays week in week out in the Premier League, Burnley’s Jeff Hendrick simply must up his game at international level.

Since putting in a number of tremendous displays at Euro 2016 and establishing himself in the Irish midfield, Hendrick’s performances have steadily declined, with the 27-year old drifting in and out of games during the last year of O’Neill’s reign.

Hendrick is clearly one of the most talented midfielders in the squad and has been a key part of Burnley’s side where, for the most part, he delivers steady performances. It is now up to him to do the same at international level.

If the Burnley man can refind the form that won over the Irish fans a couple of years ago and silence his critics, then Jeff Hendrick could become one of McCarthy’s key men.


David McGoldrick

Back in the Ireland setup after an international exodus which saw a mixture of injuries and a lack of form keep him out of the fray for 18 months, David McGoldrick has a point to prove in green.

The 31-year old has refound his form at high-flying Sheffield United this season following his release from Ipswich Town scoring 12 goals and providing three assists as the Blades look for automatic promotion to the Premier League.

McGoldrick played under McCarthy for five and a half years at Portman Road and the new Irish boss is well aware of the striker’s talents, and more importantly how to get the best out of him.

The Blades frontman has only managed 12 competitive minutes in an Irish shirt but back fit and firing he looks as though he might become an excellent asset for McCarthy and Co. this qualifying campaign.


Conor Hourihane

A key figure in Aston Villa’s recent rise up the Championship table, it has never quite clicked for Conor Hourihane at international level.

The 28-year old has only started four games for his country, failing to manage 90 minutes on any of those occasions, often struggling under Martin O’Neill in a deeper position than he, perhaps, is suited to.

Seeing Hourihane play, you never really got the feeling that O’Neill fully trusted in the Villa man in his midfield, something that McCarthy will be hoping he can address.

Hourihane has been a fantastic attacking outlet for Villa, scoring six times and creating 10 goals for his teammates. McCarthy may be inclined to play the former Barnsley man further forward given his form this campaign.


Seani Maguire

Desperately unlucky with injuries so far in his international career, Preston’s Seani Maguire appears to be refinding his goalscoring touch at just the right time for Mick McCarthy.

The former Cork City striker has only started once for his country, against Turkey, and suffered a disappointing injury in his last international in November which caused him to miss nine club games with Preston.

McCarthy has name-checked Maguire as a player who has impressed him on the number of occasions he has seen him and should be Ireland’s first choice striker given the lack of goals from Shane Long.

A late goal against Birmingham City last weekend was a timely reminder of Maguire’s quality and if he can stay fit then maybe he can be the catalyst to a more free-flowing Irish attack.

Sean Maguire Ireland Preston Alex Neil


Matt Doherty

Without a shadow of a doubt the most in-form Irish player in the Premier League, Matt Doherty has been a revelation in the top flight this season.

The 27-year old has arguably been the stand-out player in his position with Wolves and has been an integral part of a campaign which has seen the newly promoted side fight for a top-eight finish.

Like Maguire however, Doherty has been a player who has flattered to deceive at international level, only starting twice for the Boys in Green.

Doherty never appeared to be a favourite of Martin O’Neill’s but given his history under Mick McCarthy and the level at which he is performing with Wolves, the former Bohs man has a major point to prove at international level.


Author: Oisin McQueirns

Oisin McQueirns is a digital journalist at Pundit Arena. Massive fan of Leeds United, Ric Flair and Trusting The Process. Contact him here

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