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The Irish XI: PA’s Team Of The Week From Around The English Leagues

As Mick McCarthy’s first squad selection draws ever closer it’s time to weigh up the options that the former Ipswich and Sunderland boss has at his disposal.

Pundit Arena takes a look at the Irish performances from across the English leagues and puts together a starting eleven every week based solely on individual displays from potential Boys in Green.

Let’s take a look at who made the starting eleven in the third edition of The Irish XI.

(4-3-3)

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Goalkeeper: Darren Randolph

A 14th clean sheet of the season for Middlesbrough’s Darren Randolph sees him wrestle the number one jersey away from last week’s stopper Kieren Westwood.

Randolph’s side picked up an excellent win against Blackburn, thanks to a Britt Assombalonga goal, but they had the Irish international to thank for picking up all three points.

The 31-year old’s crucial late save denied Blackburn the chance to equalise in what was a very tight affair at Ewood Park. He should be a lock to start under McCarthy come March.

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Right-Back: Matt Doherty

Seamus Coleman’s Everton were not in action this weekend thanks to their fourth-round FA Cup defeat to Millwall but the Ireland captain would’ve had to have played out of his skin to better Doherty’s exploits in Wolves’ win over Bristol City.

Doherty continued his breakout season, making a goal and almost getting on the scoresheet himself at Ashton Gate in another standout performance in the FA Cup.

The 26-year old has been involved in the last 5 goals Wolves have scored in the competition and is surely Ireland’s most in-form player at the moment.

McCarthy simply must find a spot for him in his first Irish team.

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Centre-Back: John Egan 

Egan was back to his best with high-flying Sheffield United this week as they trounced Reading by 4-0 in the Championship.

The centre-half has been in excellent form throughout the season and was incredibly solid as the Blades kept a clean sheet and picked up an important three points in their race for promotion.

The 25-year old is continually growing into his role as a leader with this Sheffield United team and despite being on the outskirts of the Irish starting XI under O’Neill he may become an incredibly important asset under Mick McCarthy.

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Centre-Back: Shane Duffy

Steady as ever at the heart of the Brighton defence as they picked up an excellent victory over Frank Lampard’s Derby County to advance to the last eight of the FA Cup.

Although Ashley Cole denied he and the Seagulls’ defence a clean sheet, Duffy was his usual dominant self up against tricky operators in the form of Martyn Waghorn and David Nugent.

In the air, Duffy was especially strong as he continues to prove his worth as one of Brighton’s most important players.

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Left-Back: Enda Stevens 

Another Sheffield United performer, Stevens is fast becoming a shoo-in to start at left-back for Mick McCarthy next month.

The former Rovers man was in an unusual position against Reading starting in the left of a back three but he showed his versatility and defensive prowess well in the Blades’ 4-0 triumph.

Stevens has matured into one of Wilder’s most important players and is the standout candidate to occupy the left-back or left wing-back spot in McCarthy’s side.

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Centre-Midfield: Shaun Williams

A massive victory for Millwall over Derby in midweek was helped in no small part to the contribution of Williams in the middle of the park.

The 32-year old was everywhere at the iPro putting his body on the line on a number of occasions once Jed Wallace had given his side a rather unlikely lead.

According to Football.London, Williams had an 86% passing percentage and only gave the ball away on four occasions. A testament to his quality in possession.

Centre-Midfield: Richie Towell

Towell is in the strange position of being rather hidden away playing in a Rotherham United team that are quietly exceeding expectations this season.

The former Dundalk man took his goal, the fourth he has scored in the Championship this season, very well and could arguably have had another before he eventually did find the net.

The 27-year old brings something different to the midfield and his style could suit international football should McCarthy decide to take a chance on him.

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Centre-Midfield: Alan Judge

Judge had been in and out of the Brentford side since the start of this season, but the 30-year old has been handed a new lease of life following his move to Ipswich Town.

He was instrumental in the Championship strugglers picking up a really strong point against Stoke City last weekend and had a huge hand in Will Keane’s late equaliser.

Finally finding the form he showed before his serious injury and impressing in front of McCarthy, Judge could fancy himself for an Irish recall come March.

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Left-Wing: James McClean

An excellent all-around display from James McClean who is beginning to look more and more comfortable in Nathan Jones’ side with each passing game.

McClean was a constant threat throughout the game and deserved the opening goal he scored despite it coming in the form of a tap-in.

Under Martin O’Neill, McClean had arguably become Ireland’s most important player and McCarthy will be hoping his upturn in form for Stoke can result in the same for the Boys in Green.

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Striker: Simon Cox

Cox hasn’t featured for Ireland in four years, but on Saturday against Portsmouth, the Southend striker was playing as though he had a point to prove.

The 30-year old scored a hattrick for the League One side including two goals in the last 15 minutes to rescue an excellent point against one of the division’s promotion chasers.

13 goals and four assists for the season mean that Cox may well be on McCarthy’s radar for a return to the Irish setup come March.

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Right-Wing: Aiden McGeady

Two goals in a week for McGeady to go alongside two excellent performances as he continues to refind his best form with Sunderland in League One.

McGeady has proven to be a real threat throughout the season for the Blackcats and has been delivering in front of goal also, scoring nine times and creating five goals.

Against Gillingham midweek he coolly converted from the penalty spot and against Accrington Stanley he scored the equaliser as Sunderland came from 2-0 down.

An international return could certainly be on the cards.

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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]