Brian Barry questions the depth of the Republic of Ireland squad in attack, as they prepare for the games with Gibraltar and Germany.
In light of the opening group game, and Martin O’Neill’s latest squad announcement, this Ireland supporter is fully optimistic that the Boys In Green will qualify for France in 2016.
However, in a squad which features many the exciting prospect such as Séamus Coleman, James McCarthy, and Robbie Brady to name but a few, there is a blatant air of mediocrity surrounding our attacking options.
I’ll keep this brief.
Robbie Keane, at 34, is still Ireland’s talisman, and go-to striker. However, there is no denying our record goalscorer is past his prime. 62 goals and counting speaks volumes, and the Tallaght native has been described as un-droppable. But this is not true. Keane is extremely droppable.
The problem is that the potential replacements are almost ‘unpickable.’ The fact remains that up front, we can no longer boast a feared goalscorer. Quite frankly, the manner in which several of our attackers have failed to live up to their potential is downright disappointing.
So if Keano were to suffer an injury to put him out for the season, who would lead the attack? Shane Long obviously springs to mind.
Although I am a big fan of the former Tipperary minor hurler, there is no hiding the fact that he does not score enough goals. There were several doubts raised when Southampton elected to splash £12 million on him in August. Since leaving Reading in 2011, he has scored 23 goals in 101 club appearances. While this is not a dismal record by any stretch of the imagination, it is not what is expected when thinking of his undoubted capacity. On song, Long is one of the Premiers League’s better strikers, but all too often has he flattered to deceive.
After Long, we then turn to Jon Walters, Kevin Doyle, or Anthony Stokes. All three have potential, all three can score goals, but none deliver anywhere near consistently enough. Often, they are played out of position for both club and country. They are not wingers, and if one is to establish himself as Ireland’s main goal threat, he will need to perform when played up front.
Essentially, we do not possess an out -and-out goalscorer anywhere near his prime. Looking ahead, it is a worry. However, talent throughout the rest of the field should be enough to see us through to our second consecutive European Championships.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.