Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Denmark was admirable but did not capture the imagination of the home faithful.
In a match that should have been a revenge mission for Martin O’Neill’s side, a dull and conservative approach sucked the life out of the game as Ireland abandoned any real structure of ambition.
Another revenge mission approaches on Tuesday night as Wales come to Dublin hoping to secure a second victory over the Boys in Green in the space of six weeks.
Ryan Giggs’s side are without Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale but still possess a wealth of talent capable of breaking Irish hearts. Given Martin O’Neill’s disjointed and bizarre selections over the last several internationals, we select a team that offers a bit of a shakeup to take on the Welsh.
A scratch Irish side nearly defeated Poland last month and in the past, lesser-known and more unassuming Irish XIs have pulled off some extremely impressive performances against the odds.
This is our alternative selection of who should play against Wales.
Goalkeeper: Darren Randolph
The obvious choice between the sticks, Randolph will be relieved to have kept a clean sheet against the Danes and will hope to keep that momentum going. A cool head who has been excellent at club level despite a blip in form on the international stage of late.
Right wing-back: Matt Doherty
The PFA Player of the Month for September was not given much of a licence to go forward on Saturday night, acting more as part of a flat five. The Wolves man should be given a licence to barge forward and add to the creativity and industry that Ireland have been lacking.
Right centre back: Shane Duffy
Arguably Ireland’s best player both domestically and internationally over the last year and looks comfortable in a back three.
Will have his work cut out for him against Wales but has performed well against some big names in the Premier League, adding goals along the way.
Centre back: Richard Keogh
The Derby captain has rarely put a foot wrong at international level and was committed as ever on his return to the fold on Saturday. Essential for the communication between the back three and seems to head everything away that comes in his direction. One of the players who certainly raises his game in a green jersey.
Left centre-back: Ciaran Clark
He has struggled for game-time despite doing well with Newcastle at the start of the season. By putting the left-footed Ciaran Clark on the left of a back three, Ireland will be more balanced and at less risk than having a right footer needing to cut back in to make clearances. Another leader in the Irish team, something that was lacking against Denmark.
Left wing-back: Enda Stevens
In a position that the injured Robbie Brady could occupy terrifically, Enda Stevens could fulfil the same role he has thrived in for high-flying Sheffield United. Comfortable on the ball and strong in the tackle, the below par James McClean could serve Ireland better on Tuesday by acting as the perfect tonic off the bench against a tiring Welsh side.
Holding midfield: David Meyler
Another who seems far superior in an Irish shirt, David Meyler bossed the Welsh in Cardiff last year. James McCarthy would be ideal in this role but given the Everton man’s injury, Meyler seems the best option in the anchor role and will be enthusiastic as ever following a poor start at Reading and limited game time for Ireland. Has the physicality and comfort on the ball that lacked on Saturday.
Right central midfield: Alan Browne
Although he has struggled at senior level for Ireland, Alan Browne has possibly not been used correctly. Has thrived in the number ten role at Preston and could also benefit from playing as the more advanced attack-minded midfielder in a flat three. Like McClean, Jeff Hendrick misses out due to inconsistencies that has damaged Ireland going forward.
Left central-midfield: Harry Arter
Played as a holding player against Denmark but Arter has benefited more on the left of a flat three of holding with a more defensive player. Can break up the play and is a threat from range and like Meyler had a fantastic outing against the Welsh last year.
Striker: Callum Robinson
Newcomer Callum Robinson started the first two games he was eligible for Ireland, against Wales and Poland. This made it even more bizarre that he was dropped after a strong goal-scoring spree for Preston in the meantime. Has that bit of quality on the ball that others in the squad lack as well as an ability to put away chances. Has to start against the Welsh.
Striker: Sean Maguire
Maguire is one of the best strikers on the ball that Ireland have been able to call on in quite some time. A similar build to a young Robbie Keane, the Kilkenny man could be half of a great partnership with club-mate Callum Robinson. A better finisher than Shane Long and he can make up for all his running, Maguire will be hungry against the Welsh and deserves a crack.
Here’s the formation we’ve gone for.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena