The starting XI Ireland manager Martin O’Neill should select to face Austria.
This past week has been a mixed one for the Boys in Green, with two matches finishing 3-1. The trip to New Jersey produced a flat performance against Mexico, and there were few positives from a frustrating night’s work.
While everything went wrong in Met Life Stadium, everything went right in Lansdowne Road yesterday as goals from Jon Walters, Cyrus Christie and James McClean ensured an impressive victory over Uruguay.
Now that the formalities are over, attention turns to the serious business of next Sunday, when David Alaba and company come to town eager to avenge last November’s defeat in Vienna.
A win would give Ireland a huge boost in Group D, and could send them top, depending on how Serbia get on at home to Wales that night.
Martin O’Neill has some decisions to make ahead of the game, as he picks his strongest 11 for the task at hand.
Here is the starting XI we feel should take the field against the Austrians next week.
GK: Keiren Westwood
The Sheffield Wednesday shot-stopper has been the model of consistency in the Championship in recent seasons, not putting a foot wrong.
The problem for Westwood is that Darren Randolph has not done a huge amount wrong in recent years, but the West Ham keeper’s role in Uruguay’s goal yesterday ought to set alarm bells ringing.
It’s unlikely that he’ll get the nod, but Westwood seems to be the safer option here.
RB: Cyrus Christie
Losing one of the best right-backs in Europe is certainly a blow, but Irish fans ought to be comforted by Christie’s showing yesterday. He tore up and down the flank, and scoring was a huge bonus.
Christie looks at home when Ireland are on the front foot, so they’ll need to make home advantage count against Austria.
CB: Shane Duffy
Duffy was his usual imposing self against Uruguay, offering physicality and composure at the back. He is not yet the complete package, but is steadily improving.
CB: John O’Shea
O’Shea is 36, and didn’t set the world alight in domestic football this season. However, with Ciaran Clark out, O’Neill has a big choice to make here. Richard Keogh is an option, while Kevin Long impressed in the Aviva yesterday.
However, as we saw in Vienna, Austria’s attack is not the most dynamic, and it will be about avoiding mistakes as much as anything else. O’Shea is a smart choice here.
LB: Stephen Ward
The renaissance of Ward continues, so much so that it doesn’t seem to be a debate as to whether Robbie Brady should move back to left-back anymore. If Ward is fit, he should start.
RM: Robbie Brady
Shane Long’s injury has a knock-on effect around the park. Jon Walters moves off the right wing and goes up front, so there is a space on the left. Brady is capable of switching wings, and will need to put in a defensive shift to help cover David Alaba.
CM: Jeff Hendrick
Hendrick’s importance in this side is growing with each game. However, he needs to take on a bigger role in the team, particularly in defence with Glenn Whelan’s place no longer guaranteed.
CM: Harry Arter
The Bournemouth star played his way into O’Neill’s plans with a powerful display against Uruguay, bossing the midfield, and offering some tidy touches.
He ought to play a key role sitting back in midfield, as he did in Vienna.
AM: Wes Hoolahan
Wes has been instrumental in some of Ireland’s key goals in this campaign so far, notably his assists for Shane Long in Moldova and McClean in Vienna.
There is always debate over whether the Norwich Player of the Season should start, which is strange really. It’s a no-brainer.
LM: James McClean
The Derry native is on fire. He was one of the few players who looked interested against Mexico, and gave the side an immediate lift when introduced yesterday. However, he has progressed beyond the ‘impact sub’ role he had in the last campaign.
One of the first names on the team sheet.
ST: Jon Walters
Walters hit the bar from one yard in front of an open goal yesterday. He had a similar miss away to Austria. Neither proved costly.
Daryl Murphy looked dangerous when introduced against Uruguay, and scored some important goals for Newcastle this season.
However, in a game of this magnitude, it’s a case of tried-and-trusted.