Martin O’Neill named a 40-man provisional squad for Ireland’s upcoming clashes with Celtic, France and the Unites States – with a number of returning faces.
Glenn Whelan returned to the squad having been left out of the panel to face Turkey in March, while Jonathan Walters comes back in after a long injury absence. The likes of Kieran O’Hara, Ian Lawlor, Darragh Lenihan, Derrick Williams, Enda Stevens and Aiden O’Brien have also been drafted in and will be hoping to finally get some playing time.
However, it also gives O’Neill the chance to blood some new talent in the squad, and four new players have been duly added to the panel for the first time.
They, along with the uncapped players named above, will be aiming to get their first real taste of international football over the next few weeks – but who are the four new players in the Ireland squad?
Club: Shamrock Rovers
Position: Attacking midfielder/forward
League of Ireland players in the international squad is still something of a novelty, so on that alone it is a surprise to see Burke added to the Ireland setup. However, the attacking midfielder has been in fantastic form for Rovers this year, topping the goalscoring charts with nine goals in what has been a frustrating campaign this far for the club.
Burke returned to Ireland in 2017 from League Two side Notts County. At one point he had been threatening to break through to the Aston Villa first team but it didn’t quite work out for the 24-year-old.
His first season in Tallaght was a productive one, with five goals in 19 league games, but disciplinary issues and a season-ending injury in September hampered his progress.
Nonetheless, he has hit the ground running in this campaign – and with O’Neill worried about the sides creative talent in the final third, Burke fits the bill in that regard.
Williams has just completed a fine season with Millwall, one in which the side came agonisingly close to finishing in the playoff places. The 31-year-old played 35 times, and was one of the team’s better performances thanks to his displays in the midfield.
Equally adept in defence as well as midfield, the Sporting Fingal will have his work cut out for him to break into what is already a stacked position in the centre of the Irish midfield, but his aerial ability in particular will provide O’Neill will provide an interesting option in the upcoming friendlies, should he make the final squad.
Club: Peterborough United
Although Darren Randolph has the number one shirt nailed down, the battle to be his understudy is an open field. To that end, O’Neill named six goalkeepers in his latest squad.
Among those names is O’Malley, who made League of Ireland fans sit up and take notice with a series of fantastic displays for St. Patrick’s Athletic. Even in the midst of a Premier Division relegation battle, the 23-year-old was thriving and it was no surprise when Peterborough swooped last summer.
O’Malley has been number two to Jonathan Bond for much of the season, but has looked assured beyond his years in his nine League One appearances thus far.
Club: Preston North End
The former England youth international declared his interest in playing for Ireland at the beginning of the year, and O’Neill has responded by giving Robinson a shot in the national side to add to Preston’s ever-growing Irish contingent.
Capable of playing all across the forward line, the 23-year-old is a highly versatile player and tireless worker. With O’Neill crying out for creativity, a player like Robinson could be very useful to the side. Finding a space for him could require in change in formation, but O’Neill could well be open to that in this new transitional era.
An issue with paperwork means that Robinson cannot feature against France or USA, so he could well see some game time against Celtic.