It’s been just over a year and a half since Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick made his last appearance for Ireland during a defeat to Mexico in June 2017.
That was just the sixth cap of the 31-year old’s international career, and during the remainder of Martin O’Neill’s tenure, McGoldrick failed to feature in the side thanks to a mix of injury troubles and falling out of favour with the current regime.
Fast forward a year and a half and McGoldrick, having left Ipswich Town, is flying high in the Championship with third-placed Sheffield United and has become a key part of Chris Wilder’s outstanding side.
McGoldrick has scored ten goals and grabbed three assists for the Blades in what’s arguably been the finest season of his 14-year career.
While McGoldrick was helping fire Sheffield United up the Championship table, the national team he was once a part of were desperately struggling to find the net, only scoring four times and averaging 0.4 goals in 2018.
With the old regime gone, the door now must be open for an in-form McGoldrick to return to the Irish setup, but can he become a key figure under his old mentor Mick McCarthy?
In January 2013, during McCarthy’s first few months at Ipswich, he brought McGoldrick to the club, initially on loan before signing him on a permanent deal that summer from Nottingham Forest.
The pair spent four seasons together at Portman Road, with McGoldrick’s best goalscoring season in the second tier coming under McCarthy after he scored 14 goals in 2013/2014.
McCarthy was also a massive reason behind McGoldrick choosing to represent the Boys in Green as the 31-year old explained during an interview in 2014.
“I spoke with him a few months ago and he told me to pursue it,” said McGoldrick. “He said I’d love it. He really gave me encouragement and that was great.
“He has some great memories of his time with Ireland as boss, and he said it’s a great set-up to be involved in.”
With McCarthy back in charge of Ireland and McGoldrick in the form of his life, it’s almost a guarantee that the Sheffield United striker will be involved in his first squad.
But how does McGoldrick compare to the rest of Ireland’s striking options?
Best Of The Bunch
Although Shane Long was injured for Ireland’s last set of international fixtures, it’s likely that he will maintain his role as Ireland’s first choice number nine.
Despite playing a league above McGoldrick, Long has only managed one goal in his 15 Premier League games for Southampton this season and is dreadfully out of form with the Tipperary man having not found the net in a green jersey since 2016.
Preston’s Sean Maguire did have a promising end to last season, scoring 10 goals in 24 games, but he has been blighted by injuries since his arrival at Deepdale and hasn’t managed to make an impact in his four appearances with the Boys in Green.
Scott Hogan has fallen massively out of favour at his club Aston Villa, Millwall’s Aiden O’Brien has only scored twice in 26 Championship games this season and Michael Obafemi is still only getting a taste of first-team football with both club and country.
The only comparable striker in terms of form would be Preston’s Callum Robinson, although he is another who has been blighted by injury after a promising seven goals in 17 games for Alex Neill’s side this season.
McCarthy would likely play McGoldrick in a two or just off a Shane Long-like number nine but, regardless, his form is still far superior to any of the other options the former Ipswich boss has at his disposal.
The final push for the case of McGoldrick’s return to the Irish fold would be the fact that it’s highly likely that Ireland under McCarthy will play in a similar way to Chris Wilder at Sheffield United.
Wilder and the Blades operate a 3-5-2 formation, with the emphasis on the three men in the midfield dominating the ball to allow the wing-backs as well as McGoldrick, who usually finds himself in just behind Billy Sharp up top, to control the attack.
McCarthy has already outlined that he won’t play a 4-4-2, and it’s probably unlikely that a 3-5-2 will suit him given how it failed to impress under O’Neill, but he could deploy a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1.
Both formats would suit McGoldrick as his nonchalant style of play and tremendous ability to act as the link between the midfield and the attack, make him a perfect fit off the front in a 4-2-3-1 or as the “1” between the midfield and the attack in a 4-4-1-1.
Whether McGoldrick can translate his club form to international level remains to be seen and he is 31-years of age, but with McCarthy at the helm and the system likely to suit him, the environment he finds himself in is designed for him to shine.
One thing, however, is for sure, McGoldrick deserves his chance at a return to the Boys in Green.