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 second edition of The Irish XI.
Goalkeeper: Keiren Westwood
A clean sheet for the Sheffield Wednesday stopper sees him claim this week’s number one jersey as he looks to play his way back into the international scene.
Westwood’s Wednesday side kept a clean sheet against Reading and despite the 34- year old having very little to do in the first half, produced a top save from Lewis Baker in the second 45, a stop which arguably made sure the Yorkshire side were able to secure a point.
With the lack of real options, Randolph aside, and Westwood a frequent starter, he is surely in line for an international return.
Right-Back: Matt Doherty
Another late-show for Wolves against Newcastle on Monday night and although Doherty wasn’t on the scoresheet this time around he still showed glimpses of the quality that has made him one of the standout players of the season.
Doherty was his usual marauding self up the right for Wolves and arguaubly should have scored the opener but headed over the bar from close range.
Not his best performance but still strong enough to see him included.
Centre-Back: Richard Keogh
A very good win for Frank Lampard’s promotion chasing Derby County side over one of the division’s form teams Hull City on Saturday.
Their captain Richard Keogh, who, in truth, was unlucky to miss out on last week’s starting XI, was impressive again at the heart of the County defence.
Lampard has built and exciting young side in his first season at the iPro but Keogh’s experience at the back has been vital for Derby’s promotion push.
Centre-Back: Jimmy Dunne
The on-loan Burnley man has taken to life at the Stadium of Light like a duck to water and showed his quality once again in their 1-1 draw with Oxford United.
Dunne was immense in sweeping up any long balls over the top as Oxford tried to test the Black Cats’ defence and managed to open the scoring for Sunderland in what was a strong all round display.
Still only 21, Dunne is definitely a promising player for the future.
Left Back: Enda Stevens
A position in which Ireland find themselves decidedly short of numbers, Sheffield United’s Enda Stevens gets the nod once again at left-back.
Stevens was tremendous for most of the game as the Blades raced into a 3-0 lead but like a lot of his teammates he struggled to deal with the pressure Villa put United under as they ended up drawing 3-3.
Centre Midfield: Glenn Whelan
International retirement or not, Whelan is still Irish and put in an excellent display off the bench which deserves to see him in this week’s starting XI.
Villa’s crazy 3-3 draw with Sheffield United was as frantic a game you’re likely to see all season with Dean Smith’s side coming back from 3 down with 10 minutes to go to snatch a late draw.
Whelan came on and restored calm to a Villa midfield that had been sorely lacking it and proved to be one of the game’s standout players.
He likely won’t get an international recall but a great display which deserves praise regardless.
Centre Midfield: Callum O’Dowda
Another excellent performance from O’Dowda who is having a breakout season in a Bristol City side who appear to be finding their form at just the right time.
The 23-year old was a constant threat in City’s win over Blackburn and especially in the first period looked head and shoulders above everyone else on the field.
His corner was finished well by Pisano for the winner and although O’Dowda’s finishing made need work he is still proving to be one of the most important figures in a streaking Bristol City side.
Centre Midfield: Alan Browne
Unquestionably the most in-form Irish player in the English leagues at the moment, Preston’s Alan Browne shone yet again in their 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.
Scored a brilliant opener for his third goal in four games to take his tally to 11 for the season and was the standout player on an excellent day for North End.
His midfield running is second to none and his energy is endless, supporting the front men while also doing tremendous work in the middle of the park.
Has to start in Ireland’s opening two qualifiers.
Striker: Kieran Sadlier
Surely done enough now for his first start at Doncaster, Sadlier grabbed his first goal for the League One side in their 3-1 victory over Peterborough over the weekend.
Sadlier came on as a second half substitute but his impact was clear as the former Cork City man added something different to the Doncaster attack and took his goal superbly well when given the chance.
He’ll likely start against Southend and could be a dark horse for Irish selection come March.
Striker: James Collins
The Luton Town man just cannot stop scoring. His scintillating run of form for the Hatters shows no signs of ending as Collins again netted in another win for the League One table toppers.
Collins opened the scoring in their 3-0 win over Wycombe, for his ninth goal in as many games, and his 19th in the League this season.
The 28-year-old not only found the net, but his link-up play and overall performance was fantastic in front of the onlooking Irish assistant manager Robbie Keane.
A sign of things to come perhaps?
Striker: Seani Maguire
For the second week in a row Maguire was unfortunate not to find himself on the scoresheet, but his overall performance again for Preston was a sure fire sign that he is back to his best.
Maguire produced a beautiful through ball for Tom Barkhuizen’s goal and gave the Bolton defence a torrid time, dropping in deep and running behind at every chance he got.
If he can stay fit, it’s almost a guarantee that he’ll be in McCarthy’s plans come March.