After months of concern over Ireland’s striking options, two exciting attackers have finally come to the fore in the space of a few hours.
Robbie Keane’s retirement last summer was inevitable, as was the question of who could replace him. Shane Long and Jon Walters were the obvious candidates with 31 goals between them, the only issue being that both are over the age of 30.
Ireland’s fringe strikers are also unlikely possibilities for the long term with Daryl Murphy, David McGoldrick and Kevin Doyle not necessarily fresh options.
Thankfully in a short space of time, Ireland now have two genuinely exciting striking prospects in Sean Maguire and Scott Hogan and both are still relatively young.
Ireland fans have had to be patient for both to come into the fray for very different reasons but given the lack of young striking talent, it is a welcome sight.
Maguire is possibly the more deserving of a call-up. The former West Ham player came on leaps and bounds since returning to Ireland scoring an incredible 52 goals in 68 appearances.
He subsequently earned a move to a Preston side rich in Irishmen and has now received his first call-up.
Many fans were angered that it took a move to England to secure his international selection but domestic clashes during the summer were mainly to blame for his non-selection for the summer friendlies.
Maguire has a similar playing style to the man he could replace, Robbie Keane.
Although not quite of the same calibre as the ex-Ireland captain, Maguire is an instinctive finisher with the same type of awareness Keane had of being in the right place at the right time.
Positional awareness is key for prolific striker and Maguire certainly has that.
An added bonus to Maguire’s game is his dribbling ability. He has the desire to drive at defenders at pace and with brilliant ball control, something the likes of Long, Walters and Murphy can struggle to do.
This video demonstrates this attribute of his game brilliantly.
The Kilkenny man can also score all types of goals and despite his slight frame is a threat in the air and capable of scoring from range. He plays with the confidence and imagination needed for an international striker, very similar to Keane.
Although named provisionally, it would be a step in the right direction to include the 23-year-old.
He may be unlikely to feature in either qualifier but there is no doubt both the player and his country would benefit from an inclusion.
The wait for Scott Hogan, on the other hand, was for different reasons.
The Manchester-born man was well known to the FAI as far back as 2013 when the forward was at Rochdale. He had come through non-league in a Jamie Vardy-style rise to prominence and after 17 goals in 33 for ‘The Dale’ was snapped up by Brentford.
An ACL injury at the very start of his career in London saw him miss nearly 18 months of football.
However he came back with a bang, finishing the 2015-16 season strongly with seven goals from seven, an impressive return for someone lacking so much game time.
The 25-year-old picked up where he left off the following season netting 14 goals for the Bee’s before Christmas, fuelling rumours his ambitions were a full England call-up following talk of a move to West Ham.
A move to Aston Villa followed and unfortunately an injury-plagued season run-in.
He hit the net once more tallying 15 for 2016/17 and has struggled to rediscover that form in what looks like a disjointed Villa side.
However, the strikers ability should not be judged off the last six months, especially given his injury. Hogan is lightening quick and likes to play off the shoulders of defenders.
His playing style bears a striking resemblance to Shane Long although Hogan looks the sharper finisher.
Like Maguire, his positioning and anticipation are fantastic and looks like the instinctive finisher Ireland have been crying out for.
Hogan received an u-21 call up for Ireland in 2014 but didn’t travel as Rochdale required him for an important tie, three years on he could be on the verge of a World Cup.
Many have criticised Hogan’s delayed decision with memories of his teammate Jack Grealish still raw in the minds of Irish fans.
However the reality is that he has chosen Ireland and certainly did not have to. It is important that he is supported just like any other player to declare for us, especially given the undoubted amount he can add to the squad.
It is unclear if Hogan will be eligible in time for the double-header but if so, it would be great to see him and Maguire make the final cut.
Another striker, Cillian Sheridan is perhaps unlucky not to also be included, especially given his goal scoring exploits in Poland.
Sheridan is 28 but is no doubt another striking option that could come into the reckoning, especially given the alternative approach he would offer to any of our strikers.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena