With 2016 drawing to a close, we take a look at the Irish players position-for-position that made a huge impact on 2016. This team is certainly up for discussion.
GK: Darren Randolph
After establishing himself as Irish number one just in time for the Euros, the Bray man put in some key performances for Ireland. Having finally broken into the West Ham starting team, Randolph recovered from a couple of blunders to finish 2016 strongly with the Hammers now gathering momentum.
RB: Seamus Coleman
Some would argue that Sean Gannon should be in at right back but following some fantastic leadership in the Euros and a strong return from injury this season, Coleman earns the spot.
LB: Dane Massey
A man tipped for an Ireland call, Massey showed the poise and attacking flair of an international fullback in the Europa League. The Dundalk player was one of the Lillywhites’ key performers during their historic run.
CB: Shane Duffy
A close call but he pips John Egan, and Duffy takes the centre half spot. Having been an outside bet for inclusion in the Euro 2016 squad, the Derryman has cemented his place in Martin O’Neill’s plans. Despite a few blunders earlier in the season including a few own goals, Duffy’s finish to the 2015/16 season as well as his recent form for Championship leaders Brighton have been extremely impressive.
CB: Andy Boyle
Boyle was a leader of the terrific Dundalk heroes. After a string of good performances, the athletic and agile defender earned an Irish call up. This was followed by a move to Preston where he will only improve.
CM: Harry Arter
Having missed the Euros through injury, Arter has bounced back to become one of the Premier League’s stand-out midfielders this season. The English born player has earned high praise from pundits across the water and made his long-awaited competitive debut against Austria in Vienna.
CM: Stephen O’Donnell
The captain of Dundalk, O’Donnell showed the composure and robust style that held the Lillywhites together. Dominant in the League of Ireland, some may wish the Galway man was a few years younger so he could lend his leadership and poise to the Irish team. A solid year for him and his club.
RAM: Daryl Horgan
Possibly one of the best Irish players of 2016. Horgan enjoyed a successful Europa League, catching the eye against international opponents. Like Boyle, he too earned an Irish call up and could be in the frame for a starting position in 2017.
LAM: James McClean
After a mixed season in 2015/16, McClean was one of Ireland’s star performers in France. Having become a key player for West Brom this year, McClean scored three vital goals in World Cup Qualifying including a winner against Austria in November, which could go a long way in booking Ireland’s trip to Russia.
CAM: Robbie Brady
Battling with Wes Hoolahan, Ronan Finn and Conor Hourihane, Brady takes the slot. Despite failing to earn a return to the Premier League in the summer, Brady has been one of Norwich’s best players since joining in 2015. His exploits at the Euros will never be forgotten and with three goals for Ireland this year, 2017 will be an exciting one for the Dubliner.
ST: Sean Maguire
Having returned from England after a stint with West Ham United, Maguire didn’t quite make the grade at Dundalk. However after a move to Cork City, the forward scored an amazing 28 league goals as well as the winner in the FAI cup final. Although signed up to Cork for another season, a move back to England could be on the cards for the 22 year-old.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena