Jimmy Dunne has been called into Ireland’s senior squad for the trip to Denmark on Monday, following a spate of injuries and exclusions.
Ireland will play Denmark on Monday night, with Martin O’Neill forced into a number of changes for varying reasons.
Defender John Egan (calf), midfielder Alan Browne (shoulder), and forward Sean Maguire (hamstring) all miss out, while both Glenn Whelan and James McClean are also out after featuring in the scoreless draw with Northern Ireland. Whelan bowed out after 85 caps but has refused to rule out future appearances if the opportunity arose.
Jimmy Dunne is on course to make his senior debut, while Manchester United youngster Lee O’Connor will also travel for the first time. O’Connor trained with the squad at Abbotstown all week and clearly impressed O’Neill and his coaching staff.
Former Under-21 international Jimmy Dunne has been drafted into the senior squad for the first time. The defender, who is on loan at Hearts from Burnley, will link up with the Ireland players on Saturday ahead of their departure to Aarhus.
The inclusion of Dunne is an interesting one given that he still has the opportunity to declare for Northern Ireland. O’Neill will need to cap him on Monday to avoid any uncertainty crystallising, particularly with Northern Ireland still circling.
O’Neill’s namesake and Northern counterpart, Michael, believes that it is unlikely that the ‘Green and White Army’ will snare Dunne from the Republic’s clutches, but has not given up.
As per The 42, the Northern Ireland manager was not holding out much hope.
“Jimmy Dunne made it known that he would be interested in a conversation with me. I had a conversation with Jimmy and if you look at the situation, Jimmy Dunne is no different to Northern Ireland than Declan Rice is to the Republic of Ireland — he’s eligible through grandparents,”
While results and sentiment towards the Republic of Ireland manager may be at a low ebb at present, bringing young players like Dunne and Michael Obafemi into the squad can only aid their development; the benefits of which may only be truly felt by Martin O’Neill’s eventual successor.
Michael Obafemi is in the squad and is expected to make his debut, officially bringing to an end the needless saga that dominated headlines all week.
A snooze fest that could easily have been awoken by a short cameo for Michael Obafemi. Yes, he’s new to the squad but the fact he’s got more mins in the PL this season than most of the squad must count for something. Makes one think O’Neill revels in the monotony. #IRLNIR #COYBIG
— Richard Barrett (@TheBoyBarrett) November 15, 2018
O’Neill’s side enter the game with just one win from ten games and badly need a result (or at least a performance) if the former Celtic manager is to quieten the discontent that filled the
half-empty half-full Aviva during Thursday’s goalless stalemate with Northern Ireland.
By the time Ireland even travel to Aarhus on Saturday, relegation in the UEFA Nations League may already be confirmed, as Denmark and Wales do battle at 19:45 on Friday. If, as expected, that transpires then O’Neill could (and should) use the Denmark game as a chance to test new players against a relatively strong side.
A review of the squad travelling to Denmark does spark the interest though, as O’Neill has an opportunity to blend youth with experience on each line of the tactics board.
In goal, Randolph will likely start, but a cameo for either Colin Doyle, who is struggling for game time at Hearts, or young Caoimhin Kelleher, would certainly pique fans’ interest in the game. It is unexpected, but O’Neill often makes decisions that many wouldn’t. Albeit, negatively and positively.
In defence, the aforementioned Jimmy Dunne is unlikely to start but some game time alongside Richard Keogh and one of Kevin Long/Shane Duffy would certainly aid his development. Darragh Lenihan had a difficult outing on Thursday and more minutes would do his confidence a world of good, even against tougher opposition.
In midfield, Cyrus Christie could likely find himself playing in an advanced role ahead of Seamus Coleman (RB), while Harry Arter could also start. Arter was due to enter the fray on Thursday before Sean Maguire’s disappointing injury.
Michael Obafemi, although not expected to start, could learn a lot from playing in front of Coleman if O’Neill decides to give him an opportunity out wide instead of up front. Do not be surprised to see Christie make way for Obafemi’s eagerly anticipated debut around the sixty-five-minute mark.
Lastly, goals have become a distant memory for this Ireland team and our problems are mounting with each game. Callum Robinson has done enough to earn his spot in attack but could be pushed wide of a front three if Scott Hogan gets the start.
Ronan Curtis is also deserving of an appearance given the work rate and energy he brought to the side on Thursday.
While results in international football are of the utmost importance, Monday’s apparent dead rubber should be about O’Neill trying to implement a different set of tactics to the ones that have seen his stock drop considerably since this day three years ago.
Another blunt draw lacking in direction, organisation and potency simply will not do, but an exuberant, high-intensity creative performance will certainly be more palatable, regardless of the result.
The Irish football team are standing at a crossroads, and Monday is an opportunity to take the team in a new direction.
Surprise us all, Martin. Blood the new talent, try new tactics, and begin step one of winning back the fans.
Republic of Ireland Squad
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Colin Doyle, Caoimhin Kelleher
Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Kevin Long, Darragh Lenihan, Jimmy Dunne, Lee O’Connor, Enda Stevens
Midfielders: Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Conor Hourihane, Harry Arter, David Meyler, Shaun Williams, Callum O’Dowda
Forwards: Scott Hogan, Callum Robinson, Aiden O’Brien, Ronan Curtis, Michael Obafemi