So much has been made of Ireland’s injury list in the run up to this huge World Cup qualifier that you’d think Martin O’Neill was down to bare bones.
e’s not. O’Neill’s line-up won’t be too far off the one he would have picked anyway.
Sure, Robbie Brady is a loss and would have played but would Wes Hoolahan? I’m not so sure. People have short memories.
Oddly enough, current circumstances will create an easy choice at the back for O’Neill which I would have made anyway if it was my call.
John O’Shea and Richard Keogh are the right men for this game and in my opinion, the right centre-backs for every Ireland game if they are fit so I have no worries on that score.
Likewise Seamus Coleman and Stephen Ward who were certain to start no matter who turned up.
So if you add Darren Randolph into the mix, you have a defence which is as good as anything O’Neill can put out and one which many Ireland fans would have picked.
Move forward to midfield and you have a similar situation. O’Neill has picked Glenn Whelan more than not and James McCarthy too. Jeff Hendrick is first choice and you would have to tag James McClean with the same status.
Complete the team with Jon Walters and Shane Long and you can see that the absentees are significant but not overwhelmingly so.
I must acknowledge the job O’Neill has done in binding what is a relatively ordinary group of players into something much greater than the sum of the parts.
That’s his real success with Ireland and the reason why I think they can beat Wales and take a very firm grip of Group D.
For a start, I don’t think Wales are the team we saw in France and their results illustrate that plainly.
Wales drew with Austria away from home. Ireland beat them. Wales drew with Georgia at home. Ireland beat them. Wales dropped points against Serbia at home. Ireland drew with them in Belgrade.
Perhaps there is something of Leicester about Wales. They haven’t had the kind of collapse that Claudio Ranieri presided over but by their own standards in the summer, they have dropped off the pace.
In fact, Wales have the same squad profile as Ireland. Plenty of decent players but only Bale stands out.
Our top man is our captain, Coleman and he’s good enough to play for any team. I have to say, I’m not so sure about him wearing the armband.
He’s a great lad and a wonderful player but I saw a few things in France and in the Autumn, a few wild tackles and poor moments which I thought were down to the burden of being captain.
No criticism of Coleman is intended here but I actually think that, for his own sake, he would be better off without the captaincy