Shane Long’s last gasp equaliser against Poland last Sunday has given Republic of Ireland a fighting chance of making it to Euro 2016. With a massive improvement needed, Niall Newberry looks at ten players who could help improve Martin O’Neill’s squad.
Matt Doherty (23), Wolverhampton Wanderers, Defender
A youth product of Bohemians, Doherty earned himself a move to Wolves in 2010 and has been a regular at right-back for the play-off hopefuls this season. Doherty, who can also operate in the centre of defence, has been capped eight times at U21 level but is yet to receive a call-up to the senior squad.
Christy Fagan (25), St Patrick’s Athletic, Forward
The PFAI Player of the Year hit a whopping 27 goals for St Pats in 2014, including one against Legia Warsaw in the Champions League. O’Neill will be more than aware of the lack of attacking options he has available and Fagan is hoping to become the first League of Ireland player to be capped by the national team since Joe Gamble in 2007. It’s long overdue.
Stephen Gleeson (26), Birmingham City, Midfielder
It may come as a surprise to hear that Gleeson won two caps on an international tour in 2007 – the same tour in which players such as Joe Lapira and Stephen O’Halloran were also selected. Afterwards, Gleeson became a stalwart for Milton Keynes Dons before transferring to Birmingham last summer, where he has been a key figure in the Blues resurgence under Gary Rowett.
Jack Grealish (19), Aston Villa, Midfielder
While the ‘Jack Grealish Saga’ has seemingly come to a conclusion after the Villa starlet made himself available for selection, though it remains to be seen whether or not Martin O’Neill names the talented Grealish in the next squad. He has made just 10 appearances in the Premier League thus far but what better opposition for a possible international début than England?!
Stephen Henderson (26), Charlton Athletic, Goalkeeper
Charlton’s number one has achieved eight clean sheets from 25 Championship appearances this term. Henderson has never been capped and hasn’t even been named in the squad since 2012. Yet Rob Elliot, Shay Given, Ian Lawlor and Joe Murphy have all been called up over the past 12 months despite clocking up just five league appearances between the four of them this season.
Tommie Hoban (21), Watford, Defender
Nominated for U21 International Player of the Year, where he lost out to Jack Grealish, Hoban has featured heavily for high-flying Watford in their pursuit of Premier League football. Predominantly a centre-half but has also played at left-full for The Hornets this year. Could Hoban be the answer to Ireland’s well documented problems at left-back?
Alan Judge (26), Brentford, Midfielder
Judge has been credited with 10 assists this season for a Brentford team which have far exceeded expectations. He’s an extremely creative player who can make things happen, the type of player the Irish team has lacked for some time. Nicknamed ‘The Irish Messi’ by the Brentford faithful, Judge is yet to be selected by Martin O’Neill.
Dane Massey (26), Dundalk, Defender
Ireland has had issues in the left-back department for years now. The only recognised left-full in the current squad is Stephen Ward, who can’t get into a struggling Burnley team and one could argue that Ian Harte has never been replaced since his final cap in 2007. RTÉ soccer analyst Stuart Byrne has led the calls for Dundalk’s Dane Massey to be given a chance.
Sean Scannell (24), Huddersfield Town, Midfielder
The Huddersfield winger has impressed many with some quite exhilarating performances in this season’s Championship. Blessed with blistering pace and previously capped at U21 level, Scannell has never featured for the senior team. Martin O’Neill would want to act quickly if he is to pick Scannell, as he is also eligible for Northern Ireland.
Shaun Williams (28), Millwall, Midfielder
Williams has been arguably the stand-out performer in a struggling Millwall side this season. The utility man has often been described as the best uncapped Irish player playing in England right now, though at 28, one might think his time has passed. He can look to one of his Millwall teammates for inspiration – David Forde didn’t make his international debut until he was aged 31.
Do you agree with these selections or feel there are better options elsewhere? Let us know by commenting below or via Twitter/Facebook.