Ireland take on New Zealand next Thursday at the Aviva Stadium as they prepare for their crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark.
Mick McCarthy selected a 28-man squad ahead of the Dublin doubleheader, with the game against the All Whites an opportunity for the Irish boss to give some fringe players and new faces a chance.
After Ireland’s disappointing displays against Georgia and Switzerland, the friendly could be a chance for some to play their way into Danish contention.
But what should the starting XI against New Zealand look like?
Darren Randolph has been named in the squad but he isn’t expected to be fit enough for the New Zealand game meaning either Mark Travers or Kieran O’Hara will start.
Travers was given the nod against Bulgaria in the last friendly and appears to be McCarthy’s second choice despite his lack of game time at Premier League level for Bournemouth this season.
O’Hara has been in excellent form for his club, Burton Albion this season, making the second highest number of saves in League One, but Travers, having played in the top flight, has the experience edge and is likely to be between the sticks.
It’s highly unlikely that McCarthy strays too far from the first choice back four – save for the suspended Seamus Coleman – against Denmark, but the New Zealand game is still worth seeing what some fringe players in the position can do.
Irish U21 standout Lee O’Connor should start at right-back in what will be his senior debut, while Newcastle’s Ciaran Clark is more than deserving of his first opportunity under McCarthy given his return to form with The Magpies.
For continuity purposes, John Egan starts and New Zealand could be a chance for the Irish boss to see what he can do next to Clark, in a partnership that may be required at some stage in the future.
Left-back would’ve been ideal for QPR’s Ryan Manning but McCarthy did not include him in the squad meaning that, although Blackburn’s Derrick Williams has largely morphed into a central defender, he should get the nod as second choice in the position.
There are a couple of no-brainers to start in the midfield.
Charlton’s Josh Cullen was brilliant against Bulgaria in Ireland’s last friendly and his start to the Championship season has probably warranted a first competitive start and a strong performance against New Zealand will give McCarthy a selection headache.
Alongside Cullen, Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne must start next Thursday with his creativity and desire to make things happen in the middle of the park something Ireland were desperately missing against both Georgia and Switzerland.
The third spot in the midfield isn’t as much of a lock but we’ve given it to Aston Villa’s Conor Hourihane who was dropped for the Swiss game but has the potential to be a key player for Ireland with the right players around him.
The forward line has the potential to be very exciting given the options available to McCarthy.
The Irish boss has already outlined that Tottenham prospect Troy Parrott will feature, but it should certainly be from the start to make the call-up worth it.
With Parrott as the central striker, fellow U21 international Aaron Connolly should be given an opportunity to see what he can do from the left given how impressive he has been for Stephen Kenny’s side in that position.
On the right-hand side it’s important to match Connolly’s pace from the left so Preston’s Sean Maguire gets a start in a bid to finally kick-start his international career.
Here is the starting XI in full;