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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 24 March, 2018

Here's what Ireland's team for the 2018 World Cup might look like

A number of the current squad are likely to still be eligible should the Irish team reach Russia in four years’ time.

Teenager Ian Lawlor has already been called up to the Ireland squad.
Teenager Ian Lawlor has already been called up to the Ireland squad.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

THERE IS A definite case of the post-World Cup blues in the air, with all of us in currently trying to remember how we filled our days before the competition’s onset.

However, on the bright side, it’s just another four years until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, so with that in mind, we figured we might as well get an article in early.

Given the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni following Ireland’s failure to qualify for this year’s World Cup, along with the fact that several of the side’s best-known players are in the twilight of their careers, the Boys in Green could legitimately be described as a team in transition. Consequently, the next four years should prove to be very fascinating indeed.

We’re all a bunch of hopeless romantics at heart here in the office, and so we’ve imagined a best-case scenario in which Ireland qualify for the next World Cup under the astute guidance of Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill.

And we’ve accordingly picked 11 players (and 12 subs) who we think have a fairly decent chance of being mainstays in the team for years to come, provided injuries or a sudden unexpected loss of form don’t cruelly intervene.

So check out our team below and let us know if you agree.

1. Ian Lawlor (Age in four years: 23) - The six-foot-four-inch Dubliner is one of Ireland’s best young prospects and may well be a first-team regular in four years’ time. At just 19, he’s already been selected in Man City’s Champions League squad as well as getting called up to the Ireland senior team.

2. Seamus Coleman (Age in four years: 29) - The one player who is almost assured of a place on this team — barring injury or a disastrous loss of form, Coleman should make the right-back slot his own for the foreseeable future.

3. Marc Wilson (Age in four years: 30) - Though he may hope to be playing centre-back by the time Russia 2018 rolls around, Ireland’s lack of alternative options at left-back means Wilson may have to be content with a place there.

4. Ciaran Clark (Age in four years: 28) - The Harrow-born defender continues to accumulate vital Premier League experience, appearing 27 times in the league last year in what was an improving Aston Villa team. His place may be under threat however, following the arrival of Philippe Senderos from Fulham, but Clark has held his own thus far in the Premier League.

5. Shane Duffy (Age in four years: 26) - The Derry native may have to move away from Everton given the emergence of young English star John Stones, however his frequently impressive form at Yeovil in the Championship last year suggested he should still have a good career ahead of him.

6. James McCarthy (Age in four years: 27) - The midfielder had an encouraging season with Everton and hopefully will have learned how to consistently dominate midfield after four years of Roy Keane’s influence.

Jack Grealish celebrates scoring Source: James Crombie/INPHO

(Jack Grealish celebrates scoring for the under-21s)

7. Jack Grealish (Age in four years: 22) - One of Ireland’s brightest young prospects (though he is also still eligible for England), Aston Villa’s Grealish has featured for the Ireland under-21 team and enjoyed an encouraging loan spell with Notts County last season.

8. Darron Gibson (Age in four years: 30) - Having been one of Everton’s best players in the first year after he moved there, Gibson unfortunately picked up a bad season-ending injury at the beginning of the last campaign. However, he is highly thought of by the Toffees’ coaching staff and so, is expected to strongly compete for a place in the side this year.

9. Shane Long (Age in four years: 31) - One of those players who is seemingly perpetually associated with phrases like ‘potential,’ Long needs to start improving his goalscoring rate soon. Nevertheless, he has had an encouraging start to life at Hull, and so assuming he builds on this positive first impression, the Tipperary native should still be in contention for an Ireland first-team place in years to come.

10. Robbie Brady (Age in four years: 26) - Following a hugely promising start to life in the Premier League last year, Brady’s progress was scuppered by continual injury problems. If he can sort these issues out, he may well turn into an Ireland regular for years to come.

11. Aiden McGeady (Age in four years: 32) - At 32, McGeady will be getting on a bit particularly by wingers’ standards, but his creativity and trickery should ensure he still adds considerably to his current tally of 68 Irish caps.

Subs: Darron Randolph, Alex Pearce, Jeff Hendrick, Sean Murray, David Meyler, Stephen Quinn, Stephen Ireland, Anthony Pilkington, Samir Carruthers, James McClean, Kevin Doyle, Anthony Stokes.

Who would you have in your 2018 XI?

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