Ireland's Youth XI: How Martin O'Neill should blood Ireland's next generation of talent in USA friendly
Earlier this season Martin O'Neill made a commitment to explore his options and give Ireland's young players a chance ahead of the UEFA Nations League games against Wales and Denmark in the autumn, and this weekend's clash with the USA provides the perfect opportunity to fulfill that promise.
The side that went down to France in Paris on Monday had some new faces, but Ireland were afflicted by many of the same problems in possession, with many of the same players responsible. We are not going to learn anything we didn't already know about Jon Walters or David Meyler in the Aviva stadium this weekend, and with that in mind we have selected a 'Youth XI' we would like to see take on the United States on Saturday.
Seamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Shane Duffy, Derrick Williams
Even an experimental side needs some experienced heads to ensure the lambs are not simply sent to the slaughter, and this defence provides a veteran base for the young attackers to build from. O'Shea's 17 years of international experience would be vital in the centre of defence, while Derrick Williams deserves to be rewarded for a composed performance at left-back against the €180 million man Kylian Mbappe. Seamus Coleman remains Ireland's best player, even if he didn't show it on Monday.
Declan Rice, Jeff Hendrick, Alan Browne
The hopes of many Irish fans have been pinned on the shoulders of 19-year-old Declan Rice, who had a breakout season in the Premier League with West Ham. Rice was impressive in Paris against the French onslaught, and long-term his future may lie in the midfield. Alan Browne was poor in France but the adjustment of young players to international football is rarely immediate, and the Preston player of the year needs time to acclimatise.
Callum O'Dowda, Graham Burke, James McClean
Graham Burke has scored 13 goals in 24 appearances for Shamrock Rovers this campaign, and became the first League of Ireland player in over a decade to play for the national side when he made his debut in Paris. Shane Long's injury may provide an opportunity, and in truth Martin O'Neill can hardly afford to ignore goal-scoring Irish strikers, regardless of where those goals are being scored.
McClean was another who was wasteful in the Stade de France, but he is a senior player in Martin O'Neill's squad, and sending a wholly inexperienced team out on Saturday could result in the same disjointed performance we saw against Turkey in March.