Wednesday 20 September 2017

Five Ireland players with a point to prove against Mexico

End-of-season tours aren't every footballer's favourite but will be crucial for some players to make an impression on Martin O'Neill

Shane Duffy (right) goes through his stretching routine alongside team-mate James McClean during training in Abbotstown. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Shane Duffy (right) goes through his stretching routine alongside team-mate James McClean during training in Abbotstown. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ten years have passed since an Irish tour of the US that was preceded by a series of SOS calls.

Steve Staunton and the FAI had to go on the hunt to track down players to make up the numbers. With Kevin Kilbane the only senior squad member, he travelled with a squad consisting of some individuals that wouldn't even have been considered fringe options. This was Joey Lapira's time.

The circumstances are slightly different this week, even though the bulk of Martin O'Neill's travelling party that departed Dublin yesterday are peripheral options. Firstly, it's a short visit, a four-day effort built around Friday morning's encounter (1.0am) with Mexico. Secondly, it comes at the start of an international gathering so it's part of the process that is building towards an important fixture - the June 11 encounter with Austria.

The tour in 2007 was an add-on to a long season and the fixtures were of little consequence. It was a similar story when O'Neill brought a team to the States three years ago, although he was getting to know players at that point so it did have some meaning.

The result against Mexico may not matter but O'Neill is bringing players who definitely have a role to play against the Austrians. Here are the key men who will benefit from a match.

Daryl Horgan

The ex-Dundalk man lit up the Aviva in an otherwise drab affair with Iceland and he is pushing for a start against the Mexicans. However, it's hard to see him functioning effectively as a wing back with James McClean ideal for that berth if that's Plan A; he may have to wait until changes are made. In reality, O'Neill will need to see more of Horgan in a green jersey before trusting him for a competitive match too. He can accelerate that process with a strong display.

Darren Randolph

He has played for Ireland when there have been bigger concerns about match sharpness; Randolph played 27 times for West Ham this year but the last outing came on April 15 and a poor run led to Slaven Bilic changing his keeper. The Wicklow man could do with a confidence-booster and, while Colin Doyle is seeking to add to a cap from the '07 jaunt, it would make sense to get Randolph on the pitch against both Mexico on Thursday and in Sunday's encounter with Uruguay back in Dublin given that he's first choice.

Cyrus Christie

With Séamus Coleman out of the equation, Christie will start at right back at the Aviva and he's also arriving after a mixed year at club level with Derby. The last time he was selected from the outset was against Sheffield Wednesday on April 22 and he's another player that would benefit from an outing. Mexico are a tough opponent, though, so it will represent a proper defensive test - O'Neill has indicated he will play three at the back and wing back might actually suit Christie better at this level.

Shane Duffy

The Derryman hasn't lined out since he broke his foot on March 4, with Chris Hughton minding him in the final weeks of the campaign with promotion in the bag and international dates in mind. He was involved in a minor car accident on Sunday which will hopefully be no obstacle to any involvement. Duffy made his Irish debut against Costa Rica in Philadelphia three years ago and has finally grown into a first-choice option. The 25-year-old would be given a proper workout by the Mexicans; a formation change might impact him too.

David McGoldrick

Wes Hoolahan is on the plane and O'Neill will have to figure out how best to prepare the veteran for the Austrian encounter. He has always rated McGoldrick but his Irish career has been stop-start because of persistent niggles that have hindered his progress at Ipswich. That has prevented O'Neill from being really able to place his faith in the player in a match of significance. A cameo role against Austria is a possibility if he performs strongly in the friendly leg of this window.

 

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