Martin O’Neill named a 39-man provisional Republic of Ireland squad on Monday for the upcoming international matches against Wales and Iceland, which has created a number of talking points.
1.A strong squad of in-form players
Martin O’Neill has a tendency to pick large provisional squads leading up to games and this 39 man selection is no different. However, this might be one of the most difficult to narrow down. Aiden McGeady and Daryl Horgan enter the Welsh game in tremendous form while Darron Gibson, Andy Boyle and Daryl Murphy are finally getting a long-awaited run of games. Seamus Coleman, Conor Hourihane, Anthony Pilkington and Harry Arter are all in the midst of one of their best seasons to date while Shane Long enjoyed a purple patch just after Christmas.
2.John Egan finally gets his shot following months of form
John Egan has been one of the surprise exclusions of the last couple of provisional squads. The Corkman has been in terrific form for Brentford and although he endured a short spell on the bench for the Bees, the 24-year-old has returned to the starting eleven putting in some strong performances. A born leader and an imposing defender, Egan could be in pole position to start in the Iceland friendly but is unlikely to feature against the Welsh.
However, with Shane Duffy out injured and Ciaran Clark due to have a knee injury assessed, Egan will be hoping to catch the eye of O’Neill and Roy Keane in training.
3. Liam Kelly’s potential recognised by Martin O’Neill
The Championship season has seen several young Irish prospects emerge into the first teams of their clubs with Ryan Manning, Conor Ronan and Tom Field all making waves. Liam Kelly is perhaps one of the standouts with some impressive showings for Jaap Stam’s Reading. Kelly was somehow only included in one Ireland under-21 side and although English-born, looks to be committed to the Irish cause. With a similar playing style to Wes Hoolahan, the 21-year-old is proof that there is young talent filtering into the senior ranks after all.
4. Some disappointing omissions in an overall impressive squad
Most fans will be delighted with O’Neill’s selection today but a couple of missing names may have caused disappointment in some quarters. Galway duo Ryan Manning and Greg Cunningham are two of Ireland’s form players at the moment and were absent from the extended panel. Cunningham will be disappointed considering his rejuvenation in the last two season’s and is a viable candidate in Ireland’s problem position of left-back.
Manning, on the other hand, may have to serve out an apprenticeship with Noel Kings under 21 side before making the transition into senior international football.
5. No new ‘Granny Rule’ inclusions despite recent rumours
In the past few months, there have been whispers of some potential granny rule recruits joining the push for World Cup qualification. Scott Hogan has been a long-term target for Martin O’Neill but the Aston Villa striker is currently injured and seems unlikely to declare during this campaign. Lukas Jutkievicz of Birmingham City and Preston’s Callum Robinson have emerged as possible options but no public declaration has taken place.
The fact that switching allegiances can be a lengthy process means that it was always unlikely that any new converts would be available for the upcoming games.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena
Read More About: aiden mcgeady, anthony pilkington, Callum Robinson, conor hourihane, darron gibson, Daryl Murphy, greg cunningham, john egan, Liam Kelly, Lukas Jutkievicz, Martin O'Neill, ryan manning, scott hogan, Seamus Coleman