Ireland face the prospect of an Aviva Stadium double header next month when the Boys in Green take on New Zealand in a friendly before their crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark.
The Danish clash may be the game everyone understandably has their eye on, but the New Zealand friendly may represent a strong opportunity for certain players to stake a claim for a spot in the starting XI ahead of the final Euro 2020 qualifier.
Ireland struggled in their last two games, a draw against Georgia and a defeat to Switzerland, with a mixture of the poor results, injuries and suspensions meaning that the starting XI isn’t as set in stone as it had once been.
The friendly win over Bulgaria last month saw a host of players get the chance to shine at international level, but who deserves an opportunity to impress against New Zealand?
Let’s take a look:
1) Ryan Manning
A player who has yet to even make a full Irish senior squad, never mind win a cap for his country, QPR’s Ryan Manning has started the season in inspired form.
Manning moved from midfield to left-back and has started every league game under new R’s boss Mark Warburton, with his brilliant stats from the position earning him plaudits around the division, and linking him with a move to the Premier League.
McCarthy could’ve arguably used his creativity and dead-ball ability from left-back against Georgia with Enda Stevens suspended but the Irish boss has been scouting him personally of late and did indicate that he may get a chance against New Zealand.
The former Galway United man is still only 23 meaning his time will certainly come in green, but Ireland should be looking to take advantage of a player who is in such good form at club level.
With Greg Cunningham injured, Ireland are light in the position aside from Stevens also, while Manning could fill-in in the midfield area or further forward on the left.
This could be the perfect game for his debut.
2) Troy Parrott
Parrott is a very tricky one for a number of reasons.
The Tottenham striker has been excelling at underage level, scoring four for the U19s in the UEFA Youth League, but he has very little experience in senior competitive football, only playing once for Spurs’s first team.
There’s also the dilemma of whether his development will be better suited to staying with Stephen Kenny and the Irish U21s who have a game against Armenia the same day before playing Sweden five days later.
Nevertheless, seeing Parrott win his first cap at just 17 years of age (which would make him the third youngest Irish international ever) would be a huge boost for the Boys in Green and for the crowd in attendance.
McCarthy has also outlined that New Zealand may be the perfect opportunity to see Parrott at senior level and given how easily he’s stepped up in age groups over the last year or so wouldn’t expect him to look out of his depth.
It’s one of the more complicated selections but the senior side should take precedence and Parrott could just be the spark needed in an Irish side that has been struggling as of late.
3) Jack Byrne
Alongside Josh Cullen, Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne was the best player on the park when Ireland met Bulgaria in last month’s friendly.
Byrne got on the ball frequently when he came off the bench and showed a creative spark to open up the game and help Ireland stroll to a 3-1 win.
The 23-year-old was disappointingly left among the subs against Georgia when the game was crying out for a magician between the lines and was left out of the matchday squad entirely as Ireland fell to defeat in Geneva.
Byrne is a different option to any other midfielder in the Irish squad and after having a hand in two goals against Bulgaria has already shown that he could be the creative outlet that the Boys in Green require.
He should start the game against New Zealand and another strong performance should put him in contention for the Denmark game – one Ireland know they need to win.
4) Josh Cullen
Excelling at club level with Charlton Athletic and impressive in his Irish debut against Bulgaria, Josh Cullen is almost a no-brainer to start in the midfield against Bulgaria.
Cullen is tidy and smart in possession and like Byrne, will always want the ball even in difficult situations – a trait certain other Irish midfielders are sorely lacking.
Glenn Whelan has been a tremendous servant to Ireland over the years and against Switzerland he was admirable amidst a sea of mediocrity, but it’s high time a successor was given a chance.
The 23-year-old has the grittiness to play as the holder for Ireland as well as the ability on the ball to improve the team as an attacking outlet also.
Against Georgia and Switzerland, the midfield was a constant cause for concern but in Cullen, Ireland have a player who could go a long way in improving it.
5) Jayson Molumby
Like Troy Parrott, Ireland U21 captain Jayson Molumby should be lining up for Stephen Kenny’s side as they take on Armenia and Sweden in their Euro 2021 qualifiers.
It’s crunch time though for the senior side and ahead of the Denmark game, McCarthy will need to assess the talent he has at his disposal, even if it means hitting the 21s where it hurts.
Molumby has been brilliant for Kenny’s men acting as a real leader in the middle of the park throughout their qualifying campaign but now he can add regular football at club level to his CV.
The 20-year-old has started in seven of Millwall’s last ten league games, and against Stoke City on Saturday he excelled as new manager Gary Rowett picked up a victory against Stoke.
To succeed at a club like Millwall at such a young age is no mean feat, but Molumby has proven time and time again he has the mindset for the big occasions.
With places in the Irish midfield up for grabs after two disappointing results, the New Zealand game could be an opportunity for Molumby to play his way into McCarthy’s plans for the Denmark clash.