Martin O’Neill’s Ireland will be looking to bounce back immediately from a disappointing result against Mexico on Thursday night.
The understrength Boys in Green went down 3-1 in New Jersey, as O’Neill’s 3-5-2 experiment failing to pay dividends.
The manager will be looking for a much better performance against Uruguay on Sunday, and indeed he should get it as nine players come into the squad, among them the likes of Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Harry Arter and Jonathan Walters.
With that in mind, Ireland are likely to field a much stronger team in Dublin on Sunday evening, much closer to that which will play against Austria a week later. That said, there is still some room for experimentation, it being an international friendly and all.
Goalkeeper: Keiren Westwood
Darren Randolph has (generally) been reliable for Ireland since taking the number one shirt from Shay Given in 2015, but his form for West Ham became so problematic for Slaven Bilic that he dropped him. Westwood, meanwhile, has been a mainstay in a side challenging for promotion in the Championship, and in that regard deserves at least a shot in a friendly to show what he can do.
Right-Back: Cyrus Christie
Centre-Back: Richard Keogh
Centre-Back: Andy Boyle
Left-Back: Stephen Ward
The dearth of full-backs at O’Neill’s disposal pretty much guarantees starts for Christie and Ward (and nobody wants to see three at the back again. NOBODY.), but the centre-back partnership has a bit more room for flexibility. Shane Duffy started against Mexico but he is just coming off the back of an injury so it might make more sense to rest him for this one with one eye on Austria.
In terms of who will partner the Brighton man next week, that could still be up for grabs. John O’Shea and Richard Keogh are the most likely candidates, but having started John Egan in the last two friendlies, it might be time to give Andy Boyle a chance to stake his claim.
Centre Midfield: Glenn Whelan
Centre Midfield: Harry Arter
Attacking Midfield/Number Ten: Wes Hoolahan
The midfield is probably the most unpredictable area of the pitch to call, purely because there are so many options for O’Neill to choose from even without James McCarthy. Glenn Whelan has been a fixture in the Ireland squad for over a decade now, and offers something in that midfield that nobody else in that panel can, truth be told.
Next to the Stoke man, Jeff Hendrick’s performances in an Irish shirt have dipped since the Euros last year, and he should be wary of Harry Arter looking over his shoulder.
In the more advanced role, meanwhile, Hoolahan should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Right Wing: Daryl Horgan
Left Wing: Robbie Brady
Centre-Forward/False Nine: James McClean
Ireland’s striker shortage is a known issue (though that may change in the Autumn when Preston’s Sean Maguire will surely be called up), so with Shane Long absent on Sunday and neither Daryl Murphy nor David McGoldrick covering themselves in glory against Mexico, why not push arguably Ireland’s biggest goal threat further forward. Jon Walters is an other option but the worry there is that it may blunt the effectiveness of Hoolahan behind him.
On the wings, meanwhile, Brady is assured of his place, and likely to captain the team again in the absence of Seamus Coleman. On the opposite flank Daryl Horgan was one of the few players to emerge with any credit in New Jersey on Thursday and definitely deserves another opportunity to nail down a spot for Austria.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we take a look at a big ten days for Martin O’Neill’s side as well as the usual review of the latest League of Ireland action.