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The Youthful XI: How Ireland Should Lineup Against Denmark

Ireland enter a dead rubber against Denmark hoping to regain some momentum following some disappointing performances over the last year.

Having failed to register a goal in the last three outings, Martin O’Neill will be looking for some form of creative spark with fans growing tired of recent showings. However, one thing the Irish manager has done is introduce some exciting youth into his side, some of whom should play on Monday.

With the fixture essentially a dead rubber, O’Neill may hand debuts to some of these youngsters.

During their darker days, Ireland’s Nations League group opponents Wales blooded a number of teens in a rebuilding process and are now reaping the benefits. Given Ireland’s struggles in the final third, we have gone for a 4-2-3-1 that provides Ireland with an attacking edge protected by holding midfielders.

Martin O'Neill

Goalkeeper: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool)

Despite Darren Randolph’s heroics against Northern Ireland, Martin O’Neill may be keen to see if he has any decent competition around him. Colin Doyle has struggled in an Ireland shirt and, despite not having made his competitive first-team debut, Caoimhin Kelleher has already played in some very high profile friendlies for Liverpool.

The Corkman could easily be Randolph’s successor in years to come and could be thrust into the action.


Right Back: Seamus Coleman – Captain (Everton)

Seamus Coleman’s experience will be needed against the Danes and, given his words of frustration, following the draw against Northern Ireland, the Irish skipper should be allowed to back these words up.

Centre Back: Lee O’Connor (Manchester United)

Another that has yet to make his first-team debut but if Manchester United’s Lee O’Connor becomes a full international against Denmark, it could entice Jose Mourinho into trusting him with a first-team appearance.

Given his build and ability going forward, O’Connor seems destined to be a fullback but has experience as a ball-playing centre-half. Given Darragh Lenihan’s discomfort at international level, the Manchester United man could be the one to offer the more stylish option alongside Shane Duffy.

Lee O'Connor

Centre Back: Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion)

Another who needs to start given his experience and goal threat. Shane Duffy is arguably in Ireland’s
top five players right now and will be on a revenge mission against Denmark.

Looks like a top centre-half and will hope to become one of the leaders in an Irish team that is low in morale and inspiration. Jimmy Dunne, who looks assured at Hearts, could also earn a start against the Danes in a back three.

Left Back: Enda Stevens (Sheffield United)

Robbie Brady complements Seamus Coleman in the fullback slot, but given the impact he has had in all his Ireland caps to date, Enda Stevens deserves a start at left back.

The Sheffield United man is suited to the 3-5-2 Martin O’Neill has deployed but could equally do a job in a flat four. Eager going forward and tough in the tackle, Stevens will want to make an impression given that Greg Cunningham is now getting Premier League minutes and will be breathing down his neck in March.

Enda Stevens Jamie Ward

Holding Midfield: David Meyler (Reading)

David Meyler has not been performing this season and, despite being a key man for Ireland this time last year, is perhaps correctly not seeing game time in an Irish shirt. However, given the lack of holding midfielders in the squad, Meyler’s physical and authoritative approach could suit an Irish side playing in a difficult away fixture.

James McCarthy will no doubt step back in should he return in March.


Holding Midfield: Harry Arter (Cardiff City)

A man that could possibly be utilised a bit better at international level, Harry Arter has always performed better further up the pitch. However, given his abrasive style, Arter could protect the defence well beside David Meyler. Could also be entrusted on the left of a midfield three as could Aston Villa’s Conor Hourihane.


Right Attacking Midfield: Callum Robinson (Preston North End)

Given Ireland’s struggles in attack, it could be worthwhile playing an attacking three behind the front man which would add an extra layer in the final third, protected by a holding midfield two.

Callum Robinson fits the bill and has that bit of quality Ireland’s other attackers are missing. The Preston man would be the best option as a lone man but given his creative attributes could take his place on the right of the attacking three.


Attacking Midfield: Robbie Brady (Burnley)

In an ideal world, the wider Robbie Brady plays the better. However, in a threadbare Ireland squad, the former Hull man could serve Ireland well in the number 10 role against Denmark. Alan Judge, Ryan Manning and Danny Crowley could be options here come March but for now, Brady could link the midfield and attack successfully.

Jeff Hendrick can play this role too but simply does not deserve selection until his game improves.


Left Attacking Midfield: Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City)

With James McClean injured, Martin O’Neill has a good excuse to choose technical ability over physicality. Callum O’Dowda is another Irish player to have suffered from being played too far infield.

The 23-year-old has played his best football wider on the pitch and would complete an exciting attacking three full of talent, creativity and technicality


Centre Forward: Michael Obafemi (Southampton)

Given the strange occurrences over the past week, it would be criminal if Michael Obafemi does not make his Ireland debut against Denmark. The Southampton striker is on board but not capping the eighteen-year-old could lead to long dragged out rumour in the press between now and March and also a risk that the Dublin-born striker could indeed change his mind after all should other influences get a word in his ear.

Pacey, powerful and enthusiastic, Ireland could do far worse than cap such an exciting prospect to break out of an academy that produced Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.


How we would lineup:

Ireland face Denmark in Aarhus on Monday at 19:45.

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Author: Nick Menezes

Nick is a soccer, GAA and rugby fanatic who has a worrying obsession with the Irish football team. His articles focus on Irish football and he also writes some light-hearted pieces, particularly quirky starting XIs.