Home Features The Future Is Now: An Exciting Irish XI Of Players 25 & Under

The Future Is Now: An Exciting Irish XI Of Players 25 & Under

With another international break in the books, Ireland sit top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group thanks to a strong draw against Denmark and a 2-0 win over Gibraltar.

There may be tougher challenges to come, with home and away ties with Switzerland in September and October, but manager Mick McCarthy is on the right track in achieving his sole goal during his 18 months in charge – reach Euro 2020.

Given the nature of his job, the Irish boss hasn’t incorporated too many young players into his sides in his first four games, opting for the tried and tested experienced players instead.

But what if McCarthy was forced to make his starting XI out of players who were 25 years of age or younger? Who would be included?

Here we take a look at an Irish XI made up entirely of current players either in the senior or underage setups who are 25 and under.

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The goalkeeping spot is one that is entirely up for grabs with the number one jersey a promising position for Ireland judging by the young talent currently at their disposal.

Bournemouth stopper Mark Travers, at just 20 years of age, is arguably the front-runner given his experience in the Irish squad as well as his recent emergence into the Cherries’ first team which saw him make two appearances at the end of the Premier League season.

Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher is a talent although he is yet to play senior football despite his Champions League winners medal, while at 22 Bohemians’ James Talbot is another for the future.

Mark Travers

In defence, Ireland haven’t got many senior options under the age of 25, with John Egan at 26 the youngest in the last squad under McCarthy, however, there are a host of exciting talents in the underage setup.

Starting at right-back, Manchester United’s Lee O’Connor is another who hasn’t featured at senior level so far in his career but he is still just 18 years of age and was one of Ireland’s most impressive operators at the recent Toulon Tournament.

O’Connor also appeared over 20 times in the Premier League 2 and is thought to be very highly regarded at the Old Trafford academy. A promising choice at right-back.

Lee O'Connor

In the heart of the defence is a forgotten man in some respects. Blackburn Rovers’ Darragh Lenihan had featured twice towards the end of the Martin O’Neill reign but an injury forced him to miss a chunk of the season and he wasn’t included in McCarthy’s last few squads.

Lenihan is still only 25 and had an impressive start to the campaign at Ewood Park.

Beside Lenihan is another of the younger selection in this XI, Stoke City’s Nathan Collins, who has caught the eye of many big clubs, including Manchester United, after being given his first team chance by Nathan Jones.

Collins is very young at 18, but he has taken to life in the Championship excellently, standing out in the three appearances he made for Stoke’s senior team at the back end of last season.

Left-back is a difficult spot given that Enda Stevens is 26 and there aren’t too many players pushing for that position however we have included Irish U21’s star, Darragh Leahy.

The Bohs man has been tremendous at domestic level while also impressing at the Toulon Tournament having his best game against a very strong Brazilian side.

Moving into the midfield and we start to see more senior options who are available for selection, with West Ham’s Josh Cullen included.

The 22-year-old, who was on loan at Charlton last season, has constantly impressed McCarthy during his time with the Irish squad and although he is yet to win his first senior cap, you get the feeling it’s only a matter of time before he breaks into the starting XI.

In the midfield, there’s also a place for talented U19s international Luca Connell who was called up to train with the senior squad recently although an injury meant he did not feature in either of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Connell has developed strong Championship experience with Bolton last season and the 18-year old is expected to move to a bigger club in the January transfer window.

Alan Browne rounds out the midfield, with the Preston man having a fabulous domestic season and drawing praise from McCarthy however he has had rotten luck with injuries when it comes to his international career.

The 24-year old could become a very important player in the Irish midfield given the role as a leader and a key attacking outlet he has at Deepdale and would be one of the more experienced players in this starting XI.

Up top, each of the three players selected have been capped at senior level and represent the exciting present of the current Irish setup when fit.

On the right of the three is Callum Robinson who, in his handful of senior caps, has already looked like one of Ireland’s best attacking threats, offering a spark when he’s on the ball with the ability to hurt defenders with his pace and creativity.

On the left is Callum O’Dowda who, with 15 caps, is the most experienced player in this XI while still being 24 years of age.

The Bristol City man was on course to have a breakout season in the Championship before an injury in March saw him miss the rest of the campaign, but his creativity is a real asset for any team he is part of.

In the number nine role, there were, surprisingly, a host of contenders but given his experience of senior football, Southampton’s Michael Obafemi is given the nod.

The 19-year old won his first Irish cap at the end of 2018 and scored his first Premier League goal for the Saints last season but the latter half of the campaign saw him struggle with injury issues.

If Obafemi can stay fit he is sure to be a part of Irish squads for years to come.

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About Oisin McQueirns

Oisin McQueirns is a digital journalist at Pundit Arena. Massive fan of Leeds United, Ric Flair and Trusting The Process. Contact him here oisin@punditarena.com