Monday 25 March 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'Mick McCarthy's squad to highlight continued importance of the tried and trusted'

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McCarthy: Surprises unlikely in squad. Photo: Sportsfile
McCarthy: Surprises unlikely in squad. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Germany manager Joachim Loew delivered a bombshell yesterday. He announced that Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng will no longer be considered.

Mueller is 29. Boateng and Hummels are 30. There has to be confidence about what's coming through the ranks to make such a ballsy move. Do not expect Mick McCarthy to start off his second stint as Ireland manager by making a similar statement at tomorrow's squad announcement.

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His attempts to coax 35-year-old Daryl Murphy out of international retirement shine a light on where he's at. Glenn Whelan was also given a mention last week. Surveying the options available to the 60-year-old leads to a natural conclusion - the road ahead in the short term is likely to be determined by the availability of the tried and trusted.

There are no rabbits for McCarthy to pull out of a hat. FIFA are speeding up the paperwork process for transferring allegiance, hence the confirmation that Declan Rice is available for an England call, but Will Keane is injured and Patrick Bamford has yet to commit.

Rising star Michael Obafemi is injured and Troy Parrott is also facing up to a spell on the sidelines. Both were set to be in Stephen Kenny's U-21 squad.

McCarthy's search for a striker took him to Luton last weekend and League One's top scorer James Collins is likely to make it in. He might be the only uncapped outfield player to do so. Richie Towell is a regular at Rotherham and deserves to be in the frame but he is trying to make inroads in a position where McCarthy does have a lot of options playing at a similar level.

Alan Browne has been excellent for Preston and Conor Hourihane bagged a brace for Aston Villa at the weekend. Browne must be pushing Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Harry Arter in the central picture when it comes to starting spots.

The loss of Rice has weakened Ireland in the defensive midfield department and James McCarthy's lack of game-time must surely count against him. It would be hard to justify including him in the squad without firm guarantees. Shaun Williams can do a job there and his selection would be justified.

David Meyler has dropped to League One level on loan with Coventry and he's in the vulnerable category. The indications are that McCarthy will avoid going down the Trapattoni and O'Neill route by naming over 30 players in the panel although the caveat is that FAI did flag tomorrow's gig as a provisional squad announcement.

If he tries to keep it to a manageable number then he will face decisions in the defensive area. Seamus Coleman, Matt Doherty, Enda Stevens and Cyrus Christie are full-back options who should be named and Sheffield United's John Egan is now pushing Ciaran Clark and Kevin Long in the race to partner Shane Duffy.

Injury has halted Darragh Lenihan's progress while 32-year-old Richard Keogh could miss out if McCarthy opts to go with just the four centre-halves.

Up front, he has confirmed David McGoldrick will return and he's known to be an admirer of Portsmouth's Ronan Curtis. Seán Maguire will definitely be in the equation and Shane Long is the senior member of the party.

If Collins does get the nod, then question marks will surround whether Aiden O'Brien and Scott Hogan will both receive a call; Hogan has played just once since joining Sheffield United on loan and is yet to score this term.

McCarthy rates Alan Judge who has got a run of games at Ipswich and has mentioned him positively in dispatches. Callum O'Dowda and James McClean are the recognised wingers in the squad, while Brady and even Doherty could be asked to do a job there. Daryl Horgan is the other option there after a run in the side at Hibs. That said, Judge's recovery might count against him.

With an eye to the future, including Liverpool youth Caoimhin Kelleher along with the recalled Keiren Westwood would provide competition for Darren Randolph - the established number one 'keeper.

Then again, McCarthy's job is not to lay the foundations for Kenny. It's to make sure Ireland do the business on the pitch in the next eight months. Time is tight. Germany might be planning for the next generation but, in Ireland, the manager can't look beyond the next game.

Daniel McDonnell's Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Keiren Westwood, Caoimhin Kelleher

Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Matt Doherty, Enda Stevens, Cyrus Christie, Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Kevin Long, John Egan

Midfielders: James McClean, Callum O'Dowda, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, Alan Browne, Conor Hourihane, Shaun Williams, Alan Judge, Daryl Horgan, Harry Arter

Strikers: Shane Long, David McGoldrick, Seán Maguire, Aiden O'Brien, James Collins, Ronan Curtis

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