Plans are now underway for Euro 2016, and Ireland will be hoping for two things; qualification and progression. Here to discuss Ireland’s Euro 2016 side is Brian Barry.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane can learn a lot when looking at the minnows who excelled at the World Cup. The likes of Iran, Greece, Costa Rica and USA all exceeded expectations against the stronger nations. But what was the secret to their success?
They all countered superior sides by packing the midfield, and deploying formations such as 4-5-1. Ireland’s megolithic 4-4-2 has no place in the modern game; Euro 2012 was ample evidence of this. While many criticised Giovanni Trapattoni’s policy of picking players to suit a system rather than a system to suit his players, O’Neill must follow suit in order to compete at the top table of European football.
This is a big call. There is a case to be made for both Forde and Keiren Westwood. Both ply their trade in the Championship. Despite Westwood having played in the Premier League with Sunderland, he never fully managed to nail down a place in the starting XI. However, the Millwall man has established himself as Ireland’s number 1, and several solid showings, including an heroic display against England in Wembley, might tip the balance in the favour of the Galway native.
With no stand out candidate at left-back, the versatile Aston Villa man is the obvious choice to slot in. Stephen Ward is not up the the task of international football, after many opportunities to prove himself. With 10 caps to his name, Clark can develop his Ireland career in the upcoming qualification campaign. The fact that he can also play at centre-half or midfield will appeal to O’Neill. The opportunity to build a relationship with Roy Keane at Villa will not hurt his chances either.
With 17 caps under his belt, Wilson will look to push on and become a mainstay in the heart of the Irish defence. A regular starter for Stoke City, two more years should see the 26-year-old mature into a top centre-back and reach the peak of his career. Having featured in Trap’s squads as a fringe player, Wilson can make the centre-half position his own as Ireland look to mount a serious assault on European qualification.
O’Shea is still Ireland’s best option at centre-back, and is the obvious choice to captain the side. Experience is key to shore up the defence, and the Waterford man has it in abundance, especially at the top level. Having featured in Premier League and Champions League winning sides, Euro 2016 will be in no way daunting for O’Shea. Now a senior member of the squad, O’Shea is the go-to man for O’Neill in defence.
The first name on the team sheet. Only one question remains; where to put him? Calls to play the Everton flyer further up the field at winger are merited, but the truth is that Ireland cannot afford to move him from full-back without a ready made replacement. The Boys in Green are better equipped at the wing. The former Gaelic Footballer will be a real threat to Europe’s top teams, and is reliable in defence. Having featured on the 2013/2014 Premier League Team of the Year, his career is set to launch.
Moving to Everton has reignited his career. No matter how romantic a view you have on football, playing in Russia is a bad move. The 28-year-old can realise his potential in the top half of the Premier League, and can mature as a senior player in Martin O’Neill’s squad. While it has often been lamented that McGeady has no end product in spite of his fancy footwork, he is still feared by defences across the continent. A run of good form will see him as an automatic starter for Ireland.
Ireland need a defensive central midfielder, and Whelan has done the job for both club and country for years now. Going forward, he can score goals. Without being a spectacular player, Whelan is solid, and has stood up to the best in the world. An experienced campaigner, O’Neill would be foolish to drop the Stoke City player.
Along with Coleman, McCarthy is seen as the future of the Irish team. With 23 caps, the Everton midfielder looks set to blossom in the Premier League this season. While he can pick passes out, he is also a complete all-round midfielder. The fact that he is playing in the upper echelons of the Premier League means that he should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Another exciting prospect looking ahead. Although McGeady is currently the first choice on the wing, Brady is the correct option for the opposite side. Skill, speed, and self-confidence make Brady one of Ireland’s hottest prospects. He can put injuries behind him to work his way onto O’Neill’s teamsheet.
The entire country is lamenting that Hoolahan is not 10 years younger. He will be 34 in June of 2016, so should Ireland qualify, the tournament will be the swan-song of an all too short international career. Creative, attacking, and gifted; the man has everything experts and fans alike were calling for during the Trapattoni era. Hoolahan has the spark which can aid a lone striker, and is the perfect man for the job.
When all is said and done, the Tipperary native is the man to play as a lone striker. He still needs to score more to rise his stock, and should the goals start flowing, he is the number one option. Despite his immense goalscoring record, Robbie Keane can’t play on his own up front. He has always thrived playing off a supporting striker. The Tallaght native must fall victim to the system as O’Neill looks to compete with the stronger European nations.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.