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Kenny faith in Collins

McGoldrick retirement opens door to give Luton striker chance to shine


Manager Stephen Kenny speaks to media following his Republic of Ireland squad announcement at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown. Photo: Sportsfile

Manager Stephen Kenny speaks to media following his Republic of Ireland squad announcement at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown. Photo: Sportsfile

Manager Stephen Kenny speaks to media following his Republic of Ireland squad announcement at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown. Photo: Sportsfile

The departure of David McGoldrick from the Republic of Ireland scene was always going to open the door for somebody else.

And James Collins has emerged as a candidate to do so, in the short-term at least, although Stephen Kenny's explanation for his inclusion suggests that the Luton striker would have made the cut anyway.

He has come into the squad ahead of two players who started games last month, with both Shane Long and Seanie Maguire cut out of the 26-man panel for the games with England, Wales and Bulgaria.

There's a form angle to it as Collins is playing for Luton after overcoming Covid-19, scoring the winner against Rotherham earlier this week, whereas Maguire and Long have spent more time on the bench with their clubs.

However, there appears to be a tactical aspect to the call too, with Kenny interested in how the 29-year-old gets his goals.


After 300 minutes without hitting the net in October, the Dubliner referenced the well-travelled Collins' effectiveness in the box.

In the dying stages of the Finland loss in Helsinki, it was a cross in the box that almost drew an equaliser courtesy of Ronan Curtis - the in-form Portsmouth player who also keeps his place - and this is where he's perhaps looking for Collins as a Plan B.

"His goalscoring record in his career is absolutely exceptional," said Kenny. "The two games that he played probably, in the (Euros) campaign, against Georgia and Switzerland (under Mick McCarthy), were tough games, away from home, that didn't go to plan for him. I've always admired his attitude because he seems to be a leader for Luton.

"He scores headed goals, he's an aerial threat off crosses, and his movement in the box is very good so he's a different type of player."

Collins wouldn't be regarded as the quickest and the extent to which he might be able to effectively press from the front in the style of Long and Maguire could be debated.

That said, he does have attributes that would allow him to hold the ball up and bring other players into the game.

Ireland will miss that service from McGoldrick, with Kenny acknowledging that the Sheffield United forward is a major loss.

Ironically enough, his predecessor McCarthy favoured Collins over Long towards the end of his tenure and the Dubliner has come around to that line of thinking for now. But the manager stressed that it's possible both Long and Maguire could eventually end up featuring in this gathering.

It's plausible that Collins will remain in reserve as a bench option, with Adam Idah rated highly and McGoldrick's exit also opens up the possibility that Aaron Connolly will be used in his favourite position.

"With David McGoldrick you might have viewed it as getting your most talented players into the team and playing him (Connolly) in off the left at times because he can do that but we also have to look at him as a centre-forward because he's obviously lightning and has options in that regard," said the manager.

Callum Robinson is another contender, while Troy Parrott will definitely come into the equation when he is fit. Kenny indicated Parrott might feature in Jim Crawford's U-21 squad today as a means of getting his season going with injury preventing his loan period at Millwall from taking flight. Michael Obafemi has fallen out of favour at Southampton and can also use a crucial U-21 gathering to stake a claim.

Jason Knight returns to the U-21 set-up after a cameo in Finland, but Dara O'Shea stays with the seniors after his impressive debut. Jack Byrne was an unused sub for the first two matches of the October triple header before a Covid-19 diagnosis ruled him out.


He won't be involved at Wembley, staying behind to finish the Shamrock Rovers league season instead before travelling for Cardiff, with Kenny admitting that he didn't think Byrne would be well enough for inclusion at all given reports of how serious his strain was.

Seamus Coleman is back in training at Everton and Kenny hopes to avail of his services, noting that his leadership has been missed. He also gave strong backing to Shane Duffy after a rough patch at Celtic, adding that his Irish exertions and then a dental issue might have impacted his subsequent performances negatively.

Interestingly, Kenny claimed that both Coleman and Doherty could have started in Slovakia and there were a few references to how this team are not exactly the most vocal bunch so the Donegal man will be a welcome presence.

The challenge now is to give fans stuck in front of their television sets something to shout about.


Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (West Ham United), Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth).

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Kevin Long (Burnley), Shane Duffy (Celtic, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), John Egan (Sheffield United), Dara O'Shea (West Bromwich Albion).

Midfielders: Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), James McCarthy (Crystal Palace), Harry Arter (Nottingham Forest), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jayson Molumby (Brighton and Hove Albion), Robbie Brady (Burnley), Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers).

Forwards: Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion), Callum O'Dowda (Bristol City), James McClean (Stoke City), Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion), Adam Idah (Norwich City), James Collins (Luton Town), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers).