With Mick McCarthy stepping away from his role with the FAI earlier this month, new manager Stephen Kenny will finally take the reins of the national team.
Given the unprecedented times we are living in, when and where Kenny’s first game will be is still yet unknown. However, the Boys in Green face a jam-packed schedule come the end of 2020 when football does resume.
Kenny faces the task of the Euro playoff against Slovakia as well as UEFA Nations League games and World Cup qualifiers this year, without yet knowing which will come first.
The playoff however will undoubtedly be his most important challenge this year, whenever it is played, so we’ve decided to take a look at what Kenny’s 23-man squad for that game could look like.
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Mark Travers, James Talbot
It’s unlikely that Kenny strays too far from the norm between the sticks and despite Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher being his first choice at U21 level, his lack of game time will surely hurt him in terms of squad selection.
Darren Randolph isn’t first choice at West Ham but has been brilliant for the Boys in Green and deserves to be the Irish number one, while Mark Travers has proven himself to be a solid backup even if his minutes at Bournemouth have been limited.
Burton Albion’s Kieran O’Hara was a favourite of McCarthy and has had a strong season at Burton Albion however Kenny has name-checked Bohemians’ James Talbot and may spring a surprise and include him as third choice.
Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Matt Doherty, John Egan, Shane Duffy, Dara O’Shea, Enda Stevens, Ryan Manning
Kenny is fortunate enough to have a plethora of talent to choose from in the defensive ranks, with Seamus Coleman his captain and Brighton’s Shane Duffy both guaranteed to make the squad.
Sheffield United’s Enda Stevens has firmly cemented his spot at left-back while his Blades teammate John Egan has already been earmarked as a crucial player for Kenny.
Matt Doherty will certainly be involved although it may be in a more attacking capacity while West Brom’s Dara O’Shea, a staple under Kenny at U21 level, makes the squad as cover at both centre-back and right-back ahead of Ciaran Clark.
The final selection in defence is another new face in QPR’s Ryan Manning who is an option for left-back cover behind Stevens while his versatility means he can also operate as a midfielder if required.
Midfielders: James McCarthy, Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick, Alan Browne, Jayson Molumby, Jack Byrne, Callum O’Dowda
The midfield is an area that is in need of improvement under Kenny but it is as much about getting the best out of players already in and around the squad as it is about bringing new faces in.
James McCarthy could be crucial if he can be convinced to come back on board while the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane have all the tools to potentially flourish and become key men once again under the new Irish boss.
Preston’s Alan Browne had been growing into his place in and around the Irish starting XI and his creativity from the midfield could be a useful tool for Kenny.
One new face in the midfield is Millwall’s Jayson Molumby, Kenny’s captain at U21 level, while Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne could become a vital part of the new look Boys in Green.
Glenn Whelan has been a brilliant servant to his country but it’s likely that his international career will come to an end soon while Charlton’s Josh Cullen only just misses out.
Instead, in comes Bristol City’s Callum O’Dowda who has the potential to become a key creative asset for Ireland, if Kenny can unlock his potential, and given his ability to play wide or central in the 10, the 25-year-old could find himself back in favour under the new boss.
Forwards: Shane Long, Adam Idah, David McGoldrick, Callum Robinson, James McClean, Robbie Brady
Robbie Brady has struggled for game time at Burnley but is another who could get back to his best under Kenny, while James McClean‘s fondness for Kenny could see him flourish under the new Irish boss in a similar way to his club form with Stoke and Michael O’Neill.
Elsewhere on the flanks, Callum Robinson had been brilliant on loan at West Brom from Sheffield United before the suspension of the campaign, while Brighton’s Aaron Connolly just misses out given that he had been slightly out of favour at club level.
David McGoldrick has been outstanding for both club and country over the last 12 months and despite his lack of goals should still have a crucial role to play in the Irish attack while Shane Long’s form has certainly warranted an international recall.
That just leaves Norwich’s Adam Idah as the final selection in the 23 and given Kenny’s propensity for a strong lone front man and the 19-year-old’s impressive performances under the former Irish U21 manager, he could see himself promoted to senior level sooner rather than later.
On the fringes: Kieran O’Hara, Ciaran Clark, Darragh Lenihan, Josh Cullen, Jason Knight, Connor Ronan, Seani Maguire, Aaron Connolly, Michael Obafemi