After Ireland’s aggregate victory over Bosnia on Monday, Joe Gleeson profiles three players who need to improve this winter to be in with a chance of starting at Euro 2016.
“Obviously narrowing it down to 23 players will be hard but you always say to the players that are not playing – Aiden McGeady, Gibbo ( Darron Gibson), Pearcey (Alex Pearce)– that it is important to go and get games under their belts because it will be very difficult for the manager to go and pick lads who may not have kicked a ball for six months.” (Source: The Irish Times).
Roy Keane’s words would have rung long and loud in the ears of some of Ireland’s peripheral players. The assistant manager’s warning will serve as a not too gentle reminder that nobody’s seat to France is guaranteed, despite any previous heroics during this campaign.
Here we look at three members of Ireland’s squad who may need to find new pastures or buck up their ideas if there is any hope of being in the final 23 heading to France next summer.
1) Darren Randolph
It’s difficult to think that Darren Randolph’s place in the squad could be in jeopardy; especially after his heroics in the Aviva against Germany. Not only did he keep the world champions at bay when coming from the bench to replace the injured Shay Given, but he also set up Shane Long’s memorable winner.
Sadly, though, the Wicklow man is in a unique bracket of players with more international appearances than league run outs this season. He has appeared four times for the Boys in Green and conceded only 3 times, however in one less game for West Ham he has conceded four times. His only chances in the league came after his Spanish rival, Adrian, was suspended.
Having moved from No. 1 at Birmingham to No.2 at West Ham, and with the likes of Kieren Westwood and David Forde waiting in the wings, Randolph may need a loan move in January to become a regular starter at club level before any hopes of the same at international level.
2) David Meyler
During the Euro campaign David Meyler, who at Hull plays central midfield, played at fullback. There was a job to be done on both occasions and Meyler did it. That’s all you can really say about his performances this season. He is not outstanding in any area of the pitch. He just gets a job done.
He is a workhorse who will run through brick walls if you ask him to but he is not good enough to start in the centre of the park. With Whelan, McCarthy and Hendrick all ahead of him in that respect, and even Wes Hoolahan offering more in that position if needed, he won’t get a look in.
With right back covered by Seamus Coleman and Cyrus Christie, and the other flank by Stephen Ward or John O’Shea, Meyler will find it very difficult to dislodge any of those four. Even Robbie Brady is ahead of him in the left back stakes with O’Neill’s infatuation with playing the Norwich man there.
A player that can fill a gap almost anywhere on the pitch is a wonderful luxury to have, but Meyler is not worth bringing on the plane purely as a luxury.
If we are to go as far we can in France then we need the best players, in the best positions, bringing spark and drive to the team. David Meyler will need to improve his performances for Hull or hope an injury opens up a space for him in the squad. Right now he is good, but not good enough.
3) Aiden McGeady
The final whistle has just blown in Georgia on the 7th of September 2014; McGeady’s double has sealed a famous victory for Ireland on their long road to Euro 2016 qualification.
14 months later and it is clear now just how important those 3 points were. What is not so clear however, is where Aiden McGeady will be on the 10th of June 2016.
Since that special evening in Tbilisi, Mcgeady has played 477 minutes for the Republic, in the same time he has made a grand total of 2 appearances for Everton; both in the FA Cup and one only lasting 56 minutes before getting sent off.
McGeady has shown glimpses of wonderful talent throughout his career, his two goals in Georgia showed exactly that. One cool finish from an onrushing keeper, and a swivel and turn on the edge of the box to place it in the far corner. He has not registered a goal or assist for club or country since then.
Flashes of brilliance may be all well and good but McClean, Walters and Brady can do the same and on a more consistent level. Even young Eunan O’Kane of Bournemouth, who has been impressing in the Premier League and earned call ups to the O’Neill’s preliminary squad recently, may get in ahead of the former Celtic winger.
McGeady needs to get out of Everton and get some game time to force himself into Martin O’Neill’s thoughts. If he can do that, then at least it could be one guaranteed Scotsman going to France.
Joe Gleeson, Pundit Arena.