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Is Will Keane The Answer? Investigating Ireland’s Attacking Options

Over the weekend Ireland manager Mick McCarthy visited his old club Ipswich Town to scout striker Will Keane, with the 26-year old outlining that he was close to declaring for the Boys in Green.

The frontman, who is currently on loan at Portman Road from Hull City, impressed the new Irish boss scoring as the Championship’s bottom club rescued a point against Stoke City.

The goal was Keane’s second at the club in seven Championship games, having failed to find the net in eight league appearances for Hull.

Keane occasionally plays just behind the striker in a “centre forward” position, for want of a better word, but his goal-scoring record leaves a lot to be desired, having only scored 8 goals in his 86 games as a professional.

This begs the question, is he worth McCarthy’s apparent welcoming advances or have we better options either already in and around the squad, or who are more deserving of a chance?

Let’s investigate Ireland’s attacking options.


The Starters

The centre forward spot(s) have been a major problem for Ireland since the retirement of Robbie Keane in 2016, with the goalscoring issue on full display in the year gone by.

Shane Long is arguably still Ireland’s first choice striker, although he hasn’t found the net in green since Moldova nearly two and a half years ago, and has only scored once for his club Southampton this campaign.

Injuries aside you can probably put Preston’s Callum Robinson in this bracket due to his four recent starts for the Boys in Green.

The 24-year-old has yet to score for Ireland but has looked like one of the most promising players attack wise when he plays in Green. He’d also managed nine goals in 18 games for his club before injury.

John Walters can also be included in this bracket although his injury issues may signal the end of his international career.


Is Will Keane a better option? 

Than Long and Robinson, certainly not. He would probably get in ahead of Walters on age and fitness alone


The Fringe Players

A host of players in this category, Preston’s Seani Maguire is probably the standout here, although he has been plagued by injuries since breaking into the Irish setup.

Maguire has impressed at club level since his time at Deepdale and scored his first goal back from injury just last week.

Scott Hogan had been struggling for game time this season but looked sharp on his first start for new club Sheffield United, grabbing an assist. Like Maguire, he is yet to fully show what he can do in green.

Millwall’s Aiden O’Brien had the distinction of scoring one of only four Ireland goals in 2018 on his debut and has looked like he belongs at international level, but he can’t seem to nail down a starting place at his club.

David McGoldrick was frozen out by the old regime but his form this season which has seen him score eleven goals in a high flying Sheffield United side, will likely see him earn a recall.


Is Will Keane a better option? 

Certainly would not make the side over Maguire and McGoldrick, and O’Brien’s solid displays in green give him a distinct advantage over Keane.

The Ipswich striker has played more than Hogan but at a much lesser team. Difficult to select him over the Sheffield United man.



The Lower League Options

Luton Town striker James Collins was reportedly being watched by Ireland assistant Robbie Keane as talks of a call up for the former U21 international heats up.

It would be difficult to say it isn’t deserved as his 19 league goals may see Luton back in the Championship next season.

Ronan Curtis of Portsmouth made two substitute appearances in Ireland’s last two games and he’s been in flying form for his club scoring 10 goals and making 11 from the left-wing.

Fleetwood Town’s Paddy Madden has never received an international call up but his 14 goals and 5 assists is enough to make people take notice.

Graham Burke is another who grabbed a goal on his international debut and after struggling for first team action he’s beginning to find his feet at Gillingham

Simon Cox hasn’t featured for Ireland in over four years, but his 13 goals for Southend, including a hattrick at the weekend, is seeing him have a career renaissance.

In League Two, Padraig Amond has been grabbing the headlines for his FA Cup goalscoring feats for Newport and a total of 19 goals all season.


Is Will Keane a better option? 

Collins is playing at a lower level but is truly excelling there and on form should be in ahead of Keane. Curtis also based on his all-around game and age.

You could make a case for him over Madden and he would certainly get in ahead of a returning Simon Cox. Burke’s experience may keep him in the running.

Amond’s heroics have earned him plaudits, deservedly so, but the level is arguably too low.



The Youngsters

Where there is cause for optimism is in the youth ranks, with a number of young strikers impressing.

Michael Obafemi is the standout, having already made his full international debut and grabbing a Premier League goal all before his 19th birthday, although he’s been unlucky with injury.

Spurs’ Troy Parrott is still only 17 but his goalscoring escapades for their underage sides and his impressive displays with the Irish U19s could have him close to first team action at club and international level.

Aaron Connolly had been scoring goals for fun in the Premier League 2 for Brighton’s reserves and is now looking to gain first team experience at Luton, while Norwich City’s Adam Idah has nine goals for the Canaries U23s.


Is Will Keane a better option? 

At 26, Keane is far from old, but to include him ahead of a promising Irish youngster would certainly do more harm than good.



The Overall Verdict

Although Keane would add some depth to the Irish forward ranks, it’s evident that there are a handful of options around the leagues who may be better options than the Ipswich man.

Only time will tell if McCarthy will include him in Ireland’s squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers in March.


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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 [email protected]