With Ireland’s next game, a friendly against Turkey, fast approaching Martin O’Neill will be already starting to take notice of the in-form players at his disposal.
The Derryman will be hoping to blood some young guns as he looks to rebuild from November’s play-off heartbreak against Denmark. It has been a mixed season on the domestic front for Irish players and possibly one of the most low key in years.
The likes of Declan Rice, Josh Cullen and Liam Kelly would be welcome additions to the Ireland squad come March. A number of players could also mark their return from injury such as Seamus Coleman or Alan Judge.
Many Irishmen have gathered momentum in recent weeks, placing themselves firmly into the mix for the Turkey fixture.
Here we examine players in good form going into the game and those who have a lot of work to do if they are to be considered as key men in the rebuilding process.
Alan Browne (Preston North End)
The combative midfielder has thrived since being pushed further up the field by Alex Neil at Preston.
Ireland are in need of a number 10 following Wes Hoolahan’s retirement and the Cork native will fancy himself to fill that void. Not the easiest on the eye but certainly in form and at only 22 is a fresh option.
Kevin Long (Burnley)
Another Cork man getting plenty of recognition domestically. Centre-half Kevin Long was propelled into the midst of the World Cup qualifiers against Austria where he was impressive.
He looked shaky for Burnley at times this season but has thrived after a run of games and could push for an Ireland start against the Turkish.
Matt Doherty (Wolves)
One of the key cogs in a Wolves team that looks destined for the Premier League. Getting better and better every week as a wing back and could allow Seamus Coleman to be selected in a more advanced position.
Extremely consistent and could also benefit from the fact he is adept at left-back, a problem position for Ireland.
Scott Hogan (Aston Villa)
Enjoyed a decent goals return since the beginning of the new year and looks full of confidence even off the ball. Hogan’s movement and link up play looks superior to Shane Long’s at present and although he has gone without a goal in a couple of games must surely be ahead of the Southampton striker as well as the injured Jon Walters and Sean Maguire.
Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa)
Will be brimming with confidence following a cracker against Birmingham and a well-taken goal against Sheffield Wednesday.
The Cork man, along with Liam Kelly, could be the creative spark combined with defensive bite that would add an extra dynamic to the Irish midfield.
Greg Cunningham (Preston North End)
Arguably Ireland’s standout left-back over the last two seasons, Galway man Cunningham has made a rousing return from injury for Preston. Pacy, skilful and a talented dribbler and crosser, the ex-Manchester City youth could provide the perfect solution to Ireland’s problem position.
David Meyler (Hull City)
The stand in Ireland captain has struggled for game time this season with injury and form an issue. Looked like the authoritative and physical midfielder Ireland have lacked in a long time but players are only as good as their last game.
His performances this season have certainly been below par with the likes of Hourihane and Browne looking more deserved of a chance on current form.
Shane Long (Southampton)
Long’s running and commitment is unquestionably exceptional but one goal this season is simply unacceptable, especially given the fact he has led his country’s line for the last couple of years.
Will no doubt be in the squad, but with Hogan and the returning Sean Maguire breathing down his neck, it would be counterproductive to persist with Long if he is not offering a goal threat.
Cyrus Christie (Fulham)
Unfairly criticised during the play-offs, especially given his admirable job of filling in for Seamus Coleman. However, Cyrus Christie has not really kicked on this season and having been dropped my Middlesborough, joined Fulham on January deadline day.
Has been restricted to one appearance and given Matt Doherty’s form could see his place under threat.
Stephen Ward (Burnley)
Returned from injury nearly three weeks ago but is struggling to get back into the Burnley team due to Charlie Taylor’s good form.
Two unforgivable mistakes against Denmark as well as a lack of consistency for the best part of seven years for Ireland, Ward could make way for the impressive Greg Cunningham or ever improving Enda Stevens.
Harry Arter (Bournemouth)
Seems a long time since the long range specialist was rumoured for an England call-up. Has battled well with Ireland and the Cherries but has found himself ousted from Eddie Howe’s starting XI.
Has had injury issues but struggled when afforded the chance. Should still be an important player for Ireland in 2018 but needs to rediscover his form.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena