Ireland take on the USA on Saturday looking to give John O’Shea the perfect send-off in what will be his final intentional.
Martin O’Neill will also be hoping to avoid a third consecutive defeat (excluding the 2-2 draw with Celtic) and could field a relatively experienced side in what he will hope to be a positive relation to the loss to France.
Shaun Williams misses out while Graham Burke may not link up with the squad as Shamrock Rovers take on Dundalk on Friday. Jeff Hendrick has linked up with the squad having been initially ruled out and the main man O’Shea also comes back into the fold for his 119th and final cap.
We look at some line ups in what always proves to be a difficult prediction.
1. The Strongest XI
O’Neill will want to avoid a morale-spiralling defeat before the Nations Cup campaign and could choose to deploy his tried in tested with this balanced side.
The back four picks itself with John O’Shea likely to lead the side. Greg Cunningham could get the nod, although Derrick Williams was fantastic against France and could be retained.
Declan Rice and Harry Arter could be a good pairing with Jeff Hendrick looking comfortable in the number ten role this season with Burnley. James McClean was poor against France but is likely to start and although Callum O’Dowda could get the nod, Alan Judge could add some control and creativity on his secondary position on the wing with Shane Long up top.
2. Possession-Focused XI
The recurring issue with this Irish side is that they struggle for any kind of composure on the ball despite having players capable of doing so at club level.
Harry Arter and former Bournemouth teammate Eunan O’Kane, who is now at Leeds, played enterprising, fluid and retentive football under Eddie Howe and should be encouraged to do so at international level.
Declan Rice also has a comfort on the ball that the other holding players like David Meyler or Alan Browne rarely demonstrate. Callum O’Dowda and Alan Judge also offer the more technically gifted alternatives out wide to James McClean and Jon Walters who were both wasteful on Monday against France.
3. The Squad Utilisation XI
Like Ireland, the USA are in transition and bring a highly inexperienced squad with John O’Shea and Shane Long holding more caps combined than the squad Dave Sarachan has brought to Dublin.
Martin O’Neill could look to involve the remainder of the squad who have come into the fold this month and hand out some new caps or add to some inexperience.
Conor O’Malley, Darragh Lenihan and Enda Stevens could make their debuts while John Egan, Alan Browne, Daryl Horgan, Callum O’Dowda and Matt Doherty could take their places alongside the experienced John O’Shea and Shane Long.
4. The Tried-And-Trusted XI
O’Neill is a man of loyalty and may look to select some usual faces. Colin Doyle may need public backing following his error on Monday in an otherwise strong display and Derrick Williams should be rewarded for a super outing in Paris.
Alan Browne could be retained too with Jeff Hendrick likely to play at least some part if his injury issue cools.
David Meyler cold be afforded a run with James McClean with Shane Long given another opportunity to break his duck. John O’Shea could hand over the reins to Declan Rice if they are paired. O’Shea had similar versatility at Rice’s age which brings us to our last line-up.
5. A Team Of John O’Sheas
One of the most versatile players to grace world football hangs up his international boots and potentially pulls down the curtain on an illustrious career.
His first cap came against Croatia in 2001 and the Waterford man has played across the back four, central midfield and on the wing on a couple of occasions in green.
A fantastic servant for Ireland who featured in two major competitions and was unlucky not to go to the 2002 World Cup. His leadership even in his later years was consistent as ever, scoring a crucial equaliser against Germany on the road to Euro 2016 and more recently, helping keep Wales out when a depleted Ireland held Gareth Bale and co. 0-0 in Dublin.
He will be sorely missed by this Irish side. A team of John O’Sheas, thank you for all the memories.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena.