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Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 21 October, 2018

7 Irish players facing uncertain futures after World Cup play-off exit

Tuesday night could spell the end for a number of veteran footballers’ international careers.

TUESDAY NIGHT MAY have been the last time we see a number of players line out for the Boys in Green.

Ireland were comprehensively beaten 5-1 by a Christian Eriksen-inspired Denmark, as the dream of getting to next summer’s final in Russia ended in the most brutal fashion imaginable.

The result will potentially cause the following players to weigh up their futures…

Wes Hoolahan – Age: 35

Republic of Ireland v Denmark - 2018 FIFA World Cup - Qualifying Play-off - Second Leg - Aviva Stadium Source: Niall Carson

Wes Hoolahan will be 38 by the time Euro 2020 rolls around. Martin O’Neill has already used the Dubliner sparingly in this campaign, with the Norwich player starting just four of Ireland’s 12 qualifiers. He has contributed significantly to the O’Neill era, earning a man-of-the-match display in the famous 1-0 win over Germany, and setting up vital goals in wins against Italy and Austria among others. However, it seems unlikely he will carry on with the national side through the next campaign.

Jon Walters – Age: 34

Jon Walters Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Walters’ presence and footballing intelligence was badly missed in recent matches, with the player unavailable for the play-offs through injury. The experienced forward, in particular, was integral to Ireland securing Euro 2016 qualification. The team’s attack looks limp without him, so the Boys in Green could probably do with having the Burnley attacker available for next campaign. Nonetheless, whether his body can withstand another two years of international football remains to be seen.

John O’Shea – Age: 36

John O'Shea Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Probably the most likely to retire out of all the players listed here, the Waterford native has been a terrific servant to Ireland, winning over 100 caps. However, centre-back is one of the positions where Ireland are reasonably well covered. Tuesday night was a clear exception, but Ciaran Clark and Shane Duffy have generally excelled over the course of this campaign, conceding just six goals in 11 games before the Aviva play-off debacle.

Daryl Murphy – Age: 34

Daryl Murphy reacts after coming close with a flick on goal Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Though Ireland are not blessed with many top-quality strikers now, Daryl Murphy is getting to the age where he may want to prioritise club football. He joined Nottingham Forest on a three-year contract in the summer, so he certainly intends to be around for another few years, but may now decide to step away from the international game.

Glenn Whelan – Age: 33

Glenn Whelan Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Whelan’s appearance off the bench in the first leg against Austria was his 84th cap. It saw him surpass Paul McGrath’s tally and move up a spot in the all-time appearance list. Whether he will feel the need to stick around is uncertain though. The Aston Villa man has slipped down the pecking order in recent times, with the younger likes of David Meyler, Jeff Hendrick and Harry Arter all recently preferred to him in midfield.

Keiren Westwood – Age: 33

Keiren Westwood Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The life of a substitute international goalkeeper can be frustrating. No matter how well you are playing at club level, if the number-one choice is playing well, as Darren Randolph has been, there is not much the back-up stopper can do. Whether Westwood, at 33, has the patience to potentially sit on the bench for another two years is uncertain.

Stephen Ward – Age: 32

Stephen Ward dejected after the game Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

It was a difficult night at the Aviva for Stephen Ward in particular. Two defensive errors by the Burnley man were ruthlessly punished by the Danes. It would be a sad way to bow out if it proves to be the final appearance for another player who has been a terrific servant for the Irish side. There are more talented left-backs out there, but in terms of honesty and worth ethic, Ward is second to none.

Buy The42’s new book, Behind The Lines, here:

‘Let me finish’ – Martin O’Neill involved in another tense post-match interview on RTÉ>

This emotional James McClean post-match interview is hard to watch>

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Paul Fennessy

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