On Friday, Irish manager Mick McCarthy will select his 23-man squad ahead of Ireland’s crucial Euro 2020 playoff against Slovakia in Bratislava.
The game will go ahead behind closed doors as was announced on Tuesday, with the Boys in Green facing a tricky test against Slovakia who finished third in their qualifying group behind Croatia and Wales.
A host of Irish players have seemingly found form ahead of the playoff meaning spots in the squad could be at a premium when McCarthy makes his selections this week.
But who will be involved?
Here is the 23-man squad we believe Mick will select;
Darren Randolph may not be starting for West Ham due to the return of first-choice keeper Lukasz Fabianski but the 32-year-old has been one of Ireland’s top performers over the past couple of years and could be key to success in Bratislava.
Mark Travers is another who has been lacking game time but the Bournemouth man has essentially established himself as McCarthy’s second choice.
Kieran O’Hara has been having quite a strong season in League One with Burton Albion, despite recently being handed a six-game ban for biting an opponent, and is likely to take that third spot in the goalkeeping ranks.
Brighton’s Shane Duffy and Sheffield United duo John Egan and Enda Stevens (provided he’s fit) are locks for the squad while Wolves’ Matt Doherty is playing some of the best football of his career over the last few weeks.
He’ll start at right-back in Seamus Coleman’s absence while Fulham’s Cyrus Christie was praised by McCarthy a couple of weeks ago and his experience will likely see him given the edge over West Brom’s Dara O’Shea.
Kevin Long has only featured four times this season for club side Burnley, but he’s been a part of all but one of McCarthy’s squads meaning his inclusion is likely, especially given Ciaran Clark’s absence.
The last spot in defence is a tricky one – the aforementioned O’Shea and QPR’s Ryan Manning are arguably deserving of a spot but Darragh Lenihan‘s return to form while captaining Blackburn could see him included.
Glenn Whelan has made a brilliant start to life in League One with Fleetwood Town and is a favourite of McCarthy so will be included along with Burnley’s Jeff Hendrick and Aston Villa’s Conor Hourihane.
Alan Browne has grown into his role in the Irish setup and is once again excelling at club level with Preston while Josh Cullen‘s return from injury will see him as another option in the midfield.
Robbie Brady has found minutes difficult to come by this season at Turf Moor but given that James McClean is an injury worry and that no one has quite nailed down a spot on the right of the attacking three, he could be seen as an experienced option.
The Irish manager has been gushing over Jack Byrne in the last couple of weeks and it would be a surprise if the Shamrock Rovers man wasn’t involved in the 23.
The final spot in the midfield goes to James McCarthy who, based on his form with Crystal Palace, is certainly deserving of a place in the squad but has pulled out when called upon “2 or 3 times” since his namesake took over.
Whether we see him in Bratislava remains to be seen.
Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick has arguably been Ireland’s best player since earning his spot in the starting XI under McCarthy while Callum Robinson has flourished in his loan spell at West Brom from Bramall Lane and will be involved.
Southampton’s Shane Long is deserving of an international recall after his form at St Mary’s this season, while Scott Hogan’s loan spell at Birmingham has seen him grab seven goals in eight games making him a contender to start in Bratislava.
James McClean has spent the last few weeks out with a knee injury and despite not quite being fit for Stoke’s next league game on against Reading on Saturday he is expected to be involved in the Irish squad.
The likes of Sean Maguire, Ronan Curtis and Michael Obafemi can consider themselves unlucky to not be involved but given the nature of the 23-man squad some difficult decisions will have to be made by McCarthy.
Darren Randolph, Mark Travers, Kieran O’Hara
Shane Duffy, Enda Stevens, Matt Doherty, John Egan, Cyrus Christie, Kevin Long, Darragh Lenihan
Jeff Hendrick, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Alan Browne, Jack Byrne, Robbie Brady, Josh Cullen, James McCarthy
Callum Robinson, David McGoldrick, Shane Long, Scott Hogan, James McClean