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The Experimental Starting XI McCarthy Could Choose Against Bulgaria

On Tuesday night, Ireland face their first non-competitive game of the second Mick McCarthy era when they take on Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium.

After a hard-earned point against Switzerland in Dublin last Thursday night, Tuesday’s friendly represents a chance for McCarthy to make some changes and rotate his team.

The Irish boss has already outlined that there will be some new faces involved against Bulgaria, but what could the starting XI look like ahead of kick-off?





McCarthy is well aware of what first-choice goalkeeper Darren Randolph can do, so Tuesday’s game represents the perfect opportunity for Bournemouth’s Mark Travers to win his first senior cap.

The 20-year-old had been starting for Bournemouth towards the end of last season and despite Aaron Ramsdale now occupying the number one shirt in the Premier League, Travers impressed with his penalty heroics in the League Cup win over Forest Green.

Burton’s on-loan Manchester United keeper Kieran O’Hara is also in the squad, but expect Travers between the sticks.



Given the fact that Enda Stevens is suspended for next month’s qualifier against Georgia, McCarthy will likely try someone new in the left-back role.

There aren’t too many options in the current squad, but given that James McClean currently plays there for his club Stoke City, the 29-year-old could certainly be worth a try.

In the heart of the defence, John Egan certainly deserves a chance after his very strong start to life in the Premier League at Sheffield United and pairing him with stalwart Shane Duffy could be a strong way to test the two out as a potential partnership.

At right-back Fulham’s Cyrus Christie is an option as a player who hasn’t featured too much as of late however, captain Seamus Coleman should retain his place to give the side some sense of continuity.



Three in the middle again for Ireland but three almost entirely new faces. Charlton’s West Ham loanee Josh Cullen should come in for his first cap after a solid start to the Championship campaign. The 23-year-old is also a player McCarthy is fond of so that should see him given his debut in the Irish midfield.

The Irish manager also outlined that Shamrock Rovers standout Jack Byrne would be involved on Tuesday night after being left out for the Swiss game and the 22-year-old’s form, especially in Europe, is certainly deserving of a start.

Preston’s Alan Browne is the final man in the midfield and after missing the last two international breaks through injury he will be keen to show McCarthy what he is capable of.

Browne scored 12 goals from midfield last season and a fifth international cap is surely on the horizon for the 24-year-old.



With Sheffield United duo David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson both out of the squad through injury, it’s likely that we see a completely different frontline on Tuesday night.

On the left, Bristol City’s Callum O’Dowda deserves his chance to impress despite not featuring as much as he perhaps would have liked at club level this season.

The 24-year-old looked as though he was becoming a very important player for Ireland under Martin O’Neill but injury meant he missed McCarthy’s first couple of games in charge.

On the other flank, Portsmouth’s Ronan Curtis could be handed his first start, with his pace and eye for goal a certain asset in this team.

The final decision will come down to the number nine role, with Stoke City’s Aston Villa loanee Scott Hogan just edging out Luton Town’s James Collins for a starting berth.

McCarthy announced that they would both be involved in some capacity so expect to see Collins win his first cap even if it isn’t from the off on Tuesday.


The team in full:


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Author: 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