Wednesday 18 September 2019

John Egan to captain Ireland against Bulgaria while Conor Hourihane earmarked for defensive role

John Egan, left, with Jack Byrne during an Ireland training session ahead of this evening's friendly against Bulgaria. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
John Egan, left, with Jack Byrne during an Ireland training session ahead of this evening's friendly against Bulgaria. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

John Egan has been confirmed as Ireland captain for tonight's friendly clash with Bulgaria.

The Sheffield United central defender will earn his third cap wearing the skipper's armband while fellow Corkman Conor Hourihane,  will audition at left full-back with manager Mick McCarthy believing the Aston Villa player has the attributes to adapt to the role.

Ireland have a vacancy in the position for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Georgia as Enda Stevens will miss out due to suspension.

Matt Doherty is in pole position to get the nod provided he returns from injury and McCarthy could also call on Greg Cunningham, or even ask Stephen Ward to make a one-off return to the international sphere.

However, McCarthy has decided to take a look at central midfielder Hourihane in the Aviva Stadium encounter with the Bulgarians, feeling that it’s a free shot to experiment.

He also wants the Corkman to get 90 minutes in the fixture and this idea will facilitate that given he wants to look at other options in the centre of the park.

"Conor has all the tools to play there (left-back)," said McCarthy. "What is he? Six foot? He can defend the far post. He has a wonderful left foot. If we can get him further up the pitch so he can deliver crosses, we should get some joy out of that.

"Wouldn’t it be amazing if he played really well tomorrow and all of a sudden, ‘I’ve got one who can play there’? That’s the reason for the game. If he doesn’t, then nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"Playing against Bulgaria is not going to convince me one bit more that Stephen Ward is any better or Greg Cunningham can do it. That (Georgia) problem will come in October and I will deal with it then."

McCarthy opted against calling in members of Stephen Kenny’s U-21 squad as they have a competitive qualifier in Sweden this evening.

Conor Hourihane of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA EURO2020 Qualifier Group D match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conor Hourihane of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA EURO2020 Qualifier Group D match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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