With Robbie Brady suspended for Ireland’s showdown with Wales at the Aviva stadium, Martin O’Neill will be considering several options to step in for the Burnley man.
Robbie Brady started at left back in Vienna and it is likely that Stephen Ward will replace the 25-year-old in a straight swap against Wales. However, some shuffling may be required to accommodate a creative attacking player that can compensate for Brady’s absence going forward.
Probably Ireland’s in form player at the moment, McGeady was presented with the Championship player of the month award for February. Although McGeady’s end product has been criticised in the past, it seems to be an aspect of his game that has come on leaps and bounds.
The reality is that McGeady has provided the assists or been involved in the buildup of many Irish goals in years gone by. His inclusion could mean dropping Glenn Whelan with Jeff Hendrick moving more in field from his orthodox right wing position to partner Harry Arter with McGeady operating on the right.
Ireland’s other Preston winger has also been in the form of his life and of all the uncapped players in the squad, Horgan would be the most likely to start. His inclusion would probably see a similar scenario where Glenn Whelan makes way and Horgan takes over Jeff Hendrick’s right hand flank.
Adept from set pieces and an unpredictable opponent for full backs, Horgan could be the wildcard replacement for Brady that could cause the Welsh a lot of problems.
A man who has slipped off the international radar somewhat but is enjoying a fruitful campaign with Cardiff City. Pilkington would be another to come onto the right hand side of midfield to provide quality crosses and even an eye for goal.
Pilkington is both footed and capable of providing pin point deliveries from set pieces as well as goals under the dead ball. Yet to play competitively for Martin O’Neill but with plenty of experience, the 28-year-old would not be phased if called upon.
Another uncapped player capable of making an immediate impact. Villa man Hourihane has an astonishing 13 assists this season with many of them a result of set pieces. Like Brady, Hourihane mixes both attacking and defensive duties well on the pitch and despite being an energetic workhorse, he has the technical ability to match – a rarity among a lot of modern day footballers.
His inclusion could see O’Neill revert to the diamond formation that saw Ireland beat Germany with a midfield four of Harry Arter at the base, Wes Hoolahan behind a front two and Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick on either side.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena