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Three Key Items To Consider Ahead Of Ireland’s Next Qualifying Campaign

Ireland will not play another competitive match until March 2019. The side could look very different by then. 

Here Kevin Boyle looks at three areas Ireland need to look at now in order to develop as a side ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. 

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3. Potential Retirees 

In the aftermath of Tuesday night’s devastation, it was easy to forget that a whole host of senior players will likely bow out of international football.

Wes Hoolahan, for example, will turn 37 when Ireland begin their qualifying campaign for the next European Championships.

With only 40 caps, Hoolahan’s international career has been largely frustrating as he never gained the full backing of any Irish manager. It’s a sad way for such a talented player to end his time with Ireland.

At 34, Jonathan Walters will also likely bow out having won 51 caps and scored 14 goals in an impressive career.

Glenn Whelan may also follow Hoolahan and Walters into retirement along with John O’Shea and potentially Aidan McGeady, Richard Keogh, Keiren Westwood, Stephen Ward, Paul McShane and Daryl Murphy.

The Irish team will look very different by the time we begin participation the UEFA Nations League it seems. 

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2. Potential Future Internationals

We are embarking upon a new era for Irish football and come 2019 a number of previously uncapped players will make the breakthrough to international level.

Martin O’Neill has tended to use the same crop of 14-17 players throughout his tenure at Ireland. This has resulted in a number of bright prospects being ignored or severely underused. Among them are Conor Hourihane (4 caps), Kevin Long (4 caps), Daryl Horgan (2 caps), Sean Maguire (1 cap) and Scott Hogan (0 caps).

While these players will likely come into the fold as key men for the next campaign, there are also a crop of young, lesser-known players who may feature for Ireland.

London-born defender Declan Rice, who qualifies to play for Ireland through his grandparents, plays his football with West Ham United and has made five appearances for the Hammers this season. 

Earlier this year he was named Irish U-17 Player of the Year and earned a call-up to Martin O’Neill’s squad for the friendlies against Uruguay and Mexico. 

Another centre-back of promise is Leeds United’s Conor Shaughnessy from Galway, who has recently signed a four-year contract with the Championship side. He has played for Ireland from U-15 to U-18 level and has now been called up to the U-21 side.

Another Galway man on the up is Queens Park Rangers’ Ryan Manning, who plays in midfield. Formerly of Mervue United and Galway United, Manning has impressed since joining QPR in 2015. Currently playing for the Irish U-21 team, Manning has scored two goals in five appearances for Noel King’s men. 

English-born Liam Kelly is beginning to feature more and more for Championship side Reading. The attacking midfielder has scored four goals in all competitions this season.

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1. The Management Team

Martin O’Neill oversaw one of the Republic of Ireland’s worst displays in living memory on Tuesday night. His decision to push James McClean up alongside Daryl Murphy was bizarre as was his half-time decision to gut the Irish midfield of any defensive strength and introduce Aidan McGeady.

Christian Eriksen had the run of the midfield to himself as a result and promptly ended our World Cup dream. O’Neill should also shoulder much of the blame for the Denmark equaliser. Ireland seemed utterly clueless when Denmark played a simple short corner even though it was predictable that the Danes did not want an aerial duel with Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark.

It pointed to a lack of training that three Irish players failed to pick up a player in the box and allowed a two-on-one situation at the edge of the box.

Should he stay on, O’Neill now needs to realise that his conservative game plan is not going to work. He needs to start giving young players an opportunity in the squad and promoting better use of the ball.

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Author: The PA Team

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