Brian Barry is here to take us through the latest PA Rankings of Irish strikers, following a disappointing series of summer friendlies.
After three friendlies, with a high of challenging Italy and a low of a trashing by Portugal, Ireland break for the summer, knowing that the Euro 2016 Qualifiers are just around the corner. Martin O’Neill seems keen to play a lone striker, which ensures that the decision in this competitive area is key to Ireland’s chances of reaching France.
10. Leon Best (no change)
It is really starting to look like a case of what might have been. Reports suggest that the former Newcastle striker has been transfer-listed by Blackburn Rovers. At 27, it is not too late to resurrect his career, but he needs an extended spell of both form and fitness if he is going to work his way back into the international set-up.
Here’s a glimpse of what the striker is capable of:
9. Andy Keogh (-1)
Having been released by Millwall following a loan spell with Blackpool, the Dubliner finds himself playing with Perth Glory in the Australian A-League. He was a favourite of Giovanni Trapattoni, but is unlikely to force his way back into the squad while plying his trade Down Under.
8. Dave Mooney (-2)
Mooney started the season with Leyton Orient at a million miles per hour and was integral to the team’s push for promotion. They fell short in Wembley, but the 29-year-old’s stock has certainly risen in the last 12 months.
7. Conor Sammon (+2)
The Derby County striker’s wedding ruled him out of the games with Costa Rica and Portugal., and was an unused substitute against the Azzurri. An indifferent season at Pride Park saw him make 42 appearances. However, the majority of these were from the bench.
Derby’s play-off heartbreak means that he is unlikely to see Premier League football next season. He was picked for the squad against Italy, so it is clear that he is fancied by the management. However, he must start producing for the club to impress the Derryman.
6. Simon Cox (-1)
The Nottingham Forest striker is versatile, and appeals to O’Neill for that reason. He came off the bench in the second half in all three friendlies. He has settled at Forest, after making 37 appearances for the club this season. However, the mere eight goals in those games mean that he must do better if he is to be considered for a starting role with the country.
Will we ever see the likes of these screamers again?
- Versus Birmingham:
- Versus Walsall
5. Anthony Stokes (+2)
Stokes missed the Italy game through injury, and was excused from duty for the trip stateside as Celtic begin their pre-season in 12 days. However, he put in a good season at Parkhead, starting regularly and also featuring in the Champions League. 21 goals from 47 appearances is a decent return, and if he keeps up that form, he cannot be ignored.
4. Kevin Doyle (no change)
Doyle’s header against Costa Rica was his first international goal since way back in September 2012 against Oman. The Wexford man has been going through a rejuvenation period, helping Queens Park Rangers back to the top flight of English football. He is still not the player he was during the Euro 2012 qualification campaign, but Doyler is getting his mojo back, slowly but surely, and could be a real asset in the upcoming qualifiers.
3 Jon Walters (-1)
Walters made the trip stateside despite a meningitis scare the previous week. He was called ashore as the ship was well and truly sinking against the Portuguese. The fact that he captained the side against Cristiano Ronaldo and co. signals that the Stoke City man is part of O’Neill’s plans. His versatility will stand to him. He may not start on his own up front, but a starting berth on the wing or a role as a utility substitute are likely possibilities.
2. Shane Long (-1)
Looking forward to September, Long remains Ireland’s most potent striking threat. Although the goals have not being flowing for the former Tipperary minor hurler, he has been at the heart of Ireland’s attack.
He has put in some positive performances in recent times for Ireland, despite this shyness in front of the net. He worked tirelessly against the Italians. Questions remain as to whether he can lead the line on his own.
1. Robbie Keane (+2)
Robbie Keane has been in relatively good form for LA Galaxy. Seven goals in ten games in 2014 is a good return for the Tallaght man. He was kept on the bench at the start against Portugal. He missed a penalty to win the game against Costa Rica, but in truth, not much can be read into this.
He has delivered from the spot when it has counted for Ireland in the past. The bottom line is, if O’Neill insists on going with one up front, Ireland need a natural goalscorer. Keane is the best available.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.