Earlier this week, Lukas Jutkiewicz expressed a willingness to play for Ireland. He is one of a number of players who have been linked with representing the Boys in Green.
Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has before spoken of his wish to expand Ireland’s player pool, and would be open to using the so-called ‘granny rule’.
However, he has failed to land any major coups since taking over Ireland in 2013. Despite this, O’Neill has convinced Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick to declare as well as securing Harry Arter and Callum O’Dowda to the senior set-up.
This XI represents players who are still eligible to represent Ireland, however Curtis Davies and Mark Noble are certainly not in the running, with both of them having declined the opportunity.
However, the other names on this team could still be in the running to pull on the green jersey and could make for an increased player pool for O’Neill to choose from.
Goalkeeper: Andrew Lonergan (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Lonergan represented Ireland at under-16 level in 2000 but decided to throw his lot in with his native England. He went on to represent England’s under-20s at the 2003 Youth World Cup and gathered many Premier League admirers following his performances in the UAE.
Although Lonergan has spoken of his desire to represent Ireland again, the opportunity has yet to arise for the 33-year-old.
Right-Back: Kyle Naughton (Swansea City)
Any player of the game Football Manager would be accustomed to seeing Naughton feature in Ireland squads. However, that has never transferred to reality. Naughton was once tipped for the England right-back slot but the former Spurs man found himself behind a number of gifted players in that position.
With Seamus Coleman and Cyrus Christie firmly established in the Ireland squad, the ship seems to have sailed for Naughton, who never showed much enthusiasm when linked with the Boys in Green.
Centre-Back: Curtis Davies (Hull City) *Declined
31-year-old Davies has been a Premier League name for the past decade despite stints in the Championship. A key player and captain of his club, Davies has formerly worked under Martin O’Neill at Aston Villa (O’Neill actually sold him).
However, the defender has dismissed any chance of representing Ireland, with England or Sierra Leone his countries of preference.
Centre-Back: Grant Hall (Queens Park Rangers)
Another former Spurs player – Grant Hall was QPR’s Supporters’ Player of the Season in 2015/16. Capable of playing across the back three and as a holding midfielder, Hall has indicated an openness to declaring for Ireland and possesses the commanding aerial presence favoured by O’Neill.
With John O’Shea coming to the latter stages of his Ireland career, the 25-year-old could offer a backup option for O’Neill.
Left-Back: Jon Flanagan (Liverpool – on loan to Burnley)
A call-up for Flanagan is unlikely, especially considering he was on standby for England for the 2014 World Cup. However, as Flanagan has yet to win a competitive cap for the Three Lions, he is still eligible to throw his lot in with Ireland.
With left-back a problem position for Ireland and Liverpool lacking an Irish hero, a switch to the Irish would be well received.
Right Wing: Callum Wilson
Bournemouth striker Wilson has caused waves since joining the Cherries from Coventry City. In recent weeks he has been linked with moves to West Ham and Newcastle and has been touted for an England call-up.
With Ireland lacking a natural-born goalscorer following Robbie Keane’s retirement, Wilson would be a player well worth pursuing. There are still question marks surrounding Wilson’s eligibility, but O’Neill had been scouting the player.
Central Midfield: Mark Noble (West Ham United) *Declined
A non-runner. Despite qualifying through his Cork-born grandmother, Mark Noble very honestly and respectfully stated that he would not feel right representing Ireland and would not deprive another player of such an honour.
Noble has surprisingly failed to win an England cap but his integrity in turning down Ireland should be admired.
Central Midfield: Dan Crowley (Arsenal)
Highly rated at Arsenal, Crowley has represented both England and Ireland at underage level. The Coventry-born midfielder, who has played Gaelic football is still eligible to represent Ireland and would represent an exciting future prospect should he declare.
Despite high hopes for Crowley, he was sent back to Arsenal early by Oxford United for disciplinary issues. However, he did impress during his time there and would be an asset to Ireland.
Left Wing: Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
Despite a clamour of calls for an inclusion in the England squad, Nathan Redmond is still in the under-21 set-up. Eligible for England, Ireland and Jamaica, a tug-of-war could ensue for the exciting 22-year-old.
Capable of playing on the wing or up front, Redmond could add the spark and pace that Ireland lack. A player O’Neill should certainly make enquiries about.
Second Striker: Patrick Bamford (Chelsea – on loan at Burnley)
Another man who has represented both England and Ireland at underage level – Bamford has refused to rule out an Ireland call-up. The 23-year-old has enjoyed prolific spells at MK Dons, Derby and Middlesbrough but has yet to hit the net during three separate Premier League loan stints away from parent club Chelsea.
Despite three seasons without a goal, Bamford is still an instinctive finisher and with very little talent coming through in the forward department for Ireland, having Bamford as at least an option could prove a serious asset.
Centre Forward: Scott Hogan (Brentford)
The Brentford man is constantly on the minds of Irish fans and O’Neill as the man to soften the blow left by Robbie Keane’s retirement. Hogan was actually called up to the Irish under-21s in 2014 but was prohibited to travel by Rochdale, the side he was playing for at the time.
However, a lack of openness to discussing his international prospects has led to suggestions that Hogan is not interested in representing Ireland. With 20 goals in 31 games for the Bees, he represents the prolific streak that has been lacking in the Ireland squad. With a similar playing style and build to Shane Long, Hogan could be in the Ireland squad for March’s visit of the Welsh.
The ‘Granny Rule’ Starting XI:
Mark Bunn (Aston Villa), Ryan Meara (New York Red Bulls), Richard Stearman (Wolves – on loan from Fulham), Luke Chambers (Ipswich Town), Shane O’Neill (Apollon Limassol), Lamar Neagle (DC United), Will Keane (Hull City), Callum McManaman (Sheffield Wednesday – on loan from West Bromwich Albion), Jordan Graham (Wolves), Tommy McNamara (New York City FC), Will Buckley (Sunderland – on loan at Sheffield Wednesday), Mike Magee (LA Galaxy), Conor Wickham (Crystal Palace), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City).
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena
Read More About: Andrew Lonergan, Callum Wilson, curtis davies, Dan Crawley, Grant Hall, irish football, irish international football, jon flanagan, kyle naughton, mark noble, Martin O'Neill, nathan redmond, Patrick Bamford, scott hogan