Euro 2016 team-by-team guide: Everything you need to know Ireland
Kevin Palmer gives us the lowdown on the Portugal.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Group E fixtures
- June 13th: Sweden in Saint-Denis
- June 18th: Belgium in Bordeaux
- June 22nd: Italy in Lille
COACH: Martin O’Neill
The former Northern Ireland international produced an impressive first qualifying campaign in his role with the Republic of Ireland side, with the win against world champions Germany last October and the play-off success against Serbia that followed coming providing compelling evidence that the Irish players had rediscovered their belief and ambition.
O’Neill’s predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni was notable for belittling the abilities of the performers at his disposal, O’Neill and his shrewdly selected assistant Roy Keane have followed an alternative path, promoting the virtues of a modestly talented squad and draining the best out of them. Can they continue their momentum in a devilishly difficult opening Euro 2016 group?
STAR MAN: Shane Long (Southampton)
This speedy forward has waited long enough to be crowned as Ireland’s leading marksman and he heads into Euro 2016 hoping to confirm that his brand of direct forward play can have a big impact in a major tournament.
So often a super-sub during Robbie Keane’s enduring era as Ireland’s lead striker, Long has been in impressive form with Southampton this season and even if O’Neill believes he may be more effective as an impact substitute, the lack of options in the forward line should ensure Long is Ireland’s main forward in France.
LOOK OUT FOR: Wes Hoolahan (Norwich)
A late bloomer on the international stage, former Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni did not seem convinced by Hoolahan’s passing abilities at the heart of his midfield, yet this 34-year-old has peaked late in his career.
He has impressed in a struggling Norwich side in the Premier League this season and while there are doubts over his ability to play three high octane games in a short period at Euro 2016, O’Neill has to find a way to get Hoolahan into his team as often as possible. If not, he may well have Weso’s chief PR officer Eamon Dunphy demanding explanations this summer.
WILD CARD: Robbie Brady (Norwich)
A key man for Ireland as he will provide attacking width down the left flank and will also be charged with set-piece delivery, which could be vital to Irish hopes of making an impact at Euro 2016.
Brady has sparkled into the Premier League at times this season, but there are still some question marks over this former midfielder’s defensive qualities at times. The opposition may look to target Brady and pick holes in his positioning, so he needs to find a balance between his attacking ambitions and his need to seal up the left side of the Irish defence.
VERDICT: Ireland headed into Euro 2012 with a team lacking cohesion, but a different atmosphere prevails around this team.
O’Neill is lacking players of genuine world class ability, but the Everton duo of Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, combined with the attacking talents of Jon Walters and Long provide an honest endeavor that is laced with a touch of class. Okay we may be dreaming here, but after Leicester’s remarkable Premier League title triumph, Ireland can dare to dream that hey will make their mark at Euro 2016.