Home Irish Football How An Injury Plagued Ireland Side Should Line Up Against Austria

How An Injury Plagued Ireland Side Should Line Up Against Austria

INPHO/Gary Carr

Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland take on Austria on Saturday evening with a number of injury concerns already hitting the squad.

Shane Long’s absence from the preliminary 35-man panel showed the absolute dearth of quality Ireland now have in the striker role, while the subsequent withdrawals of Stephen Ward, James McCarthy, Cyrus Christie and Stephen Quinn from the final squad have left the group looking somewhat depleted.

Further injury concerns to John O’Shea and James McClean have exacerbated the situation, and left O’Neill with a massive selection headache for Saturday. McClean will probably be risked but the same surely cannot be said of O’Shea, whose presence in the starting lineup wasn’t guaranteed in any event.

With those injuries in mind, here’s how O’Neill should line his side up in Vienna (assuming he doesn’t adopt the 3-4-3 which is all the rage right now):

Goalkeeper:

Darren Randolph

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 25: Darren Randolph of Republic of Ireland during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium on March 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

An easy one to start off with. Randolph has been undisputed Ireland number one since coming on as a substitute in that famous win against Germany. There is no reason to suggest that will change now, nor is there much of a cause for it.

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Defenders:

Right-Back: Seamus Coleman

DUBLIN, IRELAND - OCTOBER 06: Seamus Coleman of Ireland in action during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Group D Qualifier between Republic of Ireland Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Centre-Back: Ciaran Clark

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 6/10/2016 Republic of Ireland vs Georgia Ireland's
INPHO/Ryan Byrne

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Centre-Back: Shane Duffy

DUBLIN, IRELAND - OCTOBER 06: Shane Duffy of Ireland in action during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Group D Qualifier between Republic of Ireland Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Left-Back: Robbie Brady

LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 26: Robbie Brady of Republic of Ireland celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between France and Republic of Ireland at Stade des Lumieres on June 26, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Right-back, again, is an easy decision with Seamus Coleman nailing that spot down some time ago. In fact, the captain’s armband seems to have brought the Everton defender up to another level, as shown by the storming run for his goal against Georgia.

The centre-back pairing of Clark and Duffy is yet to justify O’Neill’s trust in it, but the manager patently sees it as the way forward for the long-term. Both will probably start, especially with O’Shea not being fully fit, but that being said it would not be a huge surprise to see Richard Keogh called upon ahead of either.

At left-back, with Stephen Ward injured and a shocking lack of alternatives, Robbie Brady will be needed at left-back for Ireland again. There is a slightly possibility that Clark could play there, but O’Neill may consider that too much of a risk.

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Midfielders:

Defensive Midfielder: Glenn Whelan

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Stadionul Zimbru, Chisinau, Moldova 9/10/2016 Moldova vs Republic of Ireland Ireland's Glenn Whelan
INPHO/Ryan Byrne

 

Centre Midfield: Harry Arter

Three International Friendly, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 31/8/2016 Republic of Ireland vs Oman Ireland's Harry Arter
INPHO/Ryan Byrne

 

Centre Midfield: Jeff Hendrick

DUBLIN, IRELAND - OCTOBER 06: Jeff Hendrick of Ireland in action during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Group D Qualifier between Republic of Ireland Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

McCarthy’s absence will leave a large hole in the Irish midfield, but it is one that will surely see Harry Arter get his chance in a competitive fixture. The stars have aligned for the Bournemouth midfielder to start (not least because there’s a striking lack of alternatives in the squad).

However, Wes Hoolahan is unlikely to start. That’s not to say he definitely won’t, but nothing in O’Neill’s history with this team suggests that this is the type of game he’ll deploy the Norwich veteran in (from the beginning at least). Hendrick is assured of his place in the midfield, while Glenn Whelan is the very embodiment of a player for a tight away fixture.

Right Winger: Aiden McGeady

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 25: Aiden McGeady of Republic of Ireland in action during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium on March 25, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Left Winger: James McClean

2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Stadionul Zimbru, Chisinau, Moldova 9/10/2016 Moldova vs Republic of Ireland Ireland's James McClean
NPHO/Ryan Byrne

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Aiden McGeady was once an O’Neill favourite, but has slipped so far in the the reckoning that there is a genuine debate to be had over whether he should start even with so many options missing. His return to action for Preston last weekend was with a fine performance from the on-loan Everton winger, and although Walters would be many peoples’ choice for the right-hand position in Vienna, he’s needed further up front.

McClean, however, is nailed-on provided he proves his fitness. His return to training would suggest this is the case, with O’Neill hoping the West Brom winger can carry on his good form from the Moldova match.

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Striker:

Jonathan Walters

2016 UEFA European Championship Group E, Stade de France, France 13/6/2016 Republic of Ireland vs Sweden Ireland's Jonathan Walters at the end of the game
INPHO/Donall Farmer

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If this was a home game against Moldova, for example, then O’Neill might have felt adventurous and placed McClean in a false nine up front. As it is expected to be tight and physical, then Walters is probably the best option for Ireland to lead the line. The Stoke forward has looked off the pace in his appearances so far this season (since his injury at Euro 2016, in fact), but needs must. This isn’t a game for a severely isolated Kevin Doyle up there on his own for the whole game.

 

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