Ireland’s play-off heartbreak against Denmark has sparked the potential need for refreshment within the squad.
The team’s failure to make the World Cup finals could mark the end of some Irish careers, especially given the age profile of some of Ireland’s more senior players. Thankfully, there is plenty of talent on the peripheries, not to mention the fact Ireland have promising under-17, 19 and 21 sides.
We examine some like-for-like replacements for some of the players who could make way in the coming months.
Declan Rice for John O’Shea
Declan Rice has enjoyed a rapid elevation to the West Ham first team and could feature more regularly for new Hammers boss David Moyes. One of the stars of the under-21’s, Rice is a rare breed of Irish teenager playing in England’s top flight.
He has a similar versatility to John O’Shea in his younger days and should be capped at the earliest opportunity. Still only 18 but a definite talent that should be tied down given that he is still English qualified.
Greg Cunningham for Stephen Ward
Ward isn’t likely to retire, but the Burnley man’s consistency for Ireland is questionable. Preston fullback Cunningham was actually around the squad before Ward despite being six years his junior.
However he was hampered by several long term injuries and is on the comeback from his latest. Still only 26, Cunningham is an athletic, modern day left back also capable of playing centre back and would offer perfect balance with Seamus Coleman on the opposite flank attack-wise.
Eunan O’Kane for Glenn Whelan
It has come to the stage where Ireland simply look a better side without Glenn Whelan and despite being a fantastic servant for his country, the Aston Villa man may be set to step away from the Irish set up. Eunan O’Kane can play both the holding and advanced midfield role and has plenty of bite in his tackle. A more mobile midfielder than Whelan and probably Ireland’s most underused players during the World Cup Qualifiers.
Liam Kelly for Wes Hoolahan
It seems Wes Hoolahan will not play on for Ireland given his age and lack of opportunities under Martin O’Neill when he could have been vital. Liam Kelly is of similar build and style to the Norwich man. The Reading youngster has received provisional call ups and should come into the reckoning for the next campaign. A pacy and technically gifted player, Kelly could be an Ireland starter in the near future.
Cillian Sheridan for Daryl Murphy
There is no doubt Sean Maguire is not far off an Ireland starting place but Ireland have traditionally played with and old school physical centre forward. At 6’3, Daryl Muprhy has fulfilled that role and has been one of Ireland’s most prolific players at club level. However at 34, he too could make way. Cillian Sheridan has performed well for Jagiellonia in Poland and at 6’5 could be the perfect replacement for Murphy, especially given his superior link up play and pace.
Sean Maguire for Jon Walters
As already mentioned, Sean Maguire will head up the pecking order should Daryl Murphy and Jon Walters retire. Possessing tremendous finishing and dribbling ability, Maguire like Walters can occupy the centre forward and right wing position and can run for days. Could be one of those players that just thrives at international level and could be the finisher Ireland are missing. Scott Hogan is another to be considered.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena