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Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 22 July, 2018

Opinion: Here's what the Ireland starting XI to face Georgia should be

Let us know if you agree with our choices ahead of Sunday’s big game.

Robbie Keane looks set to start against Georgia on Sunday.
Robbie Keane looks set to start against Georgia on Sunday.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Updated at 21.21

1. David Forde: WHETHER FORDE IS Ireland’s best goalkeeper is far from clear cut at the moment. He has produced some excellent performances coupled with a few unconvincing displays — goals in the World Cup qualifier against Sweden and Ireland’s final summer friendly against Portugal, for instance, were certainly preventable from his perspective. However, he still undoubtedly deserves to be in the team because all of the alternatives have a lack of playing time at either club or international level, and in some cases both.

2. Seamus Coleman: By some distance, Ireland’s best player based on club form at least. Barring a disaster, Coleman will surely be a mainstay at right-back for years to come.

3. Stephen Ward: Another player who has looked unconvincing in the past at international level, but should make the starting line-up. Aside from Marc Wilson, who has generally been playing quite successfully as a centre-back for Stoke in recent times, the only other viable alternative would be Joey O’Brien who is currently unavailable through injury, leaving Ward — who has yet to play in the Premier League since signing for Burnley — the primary choice as left-back almost by default.

4. John O’Shea: Like Coleman, O’Shea has been impressive enough in recent times for club and country alike, so much so that his position as a key player and automatic starter is virtually assured.

5. Marc Wilson: Given the team’s shortage of options at left-back, there is a case to be made for putting the Stoke man there. But a series of impressive performances in what looks like being his more natural position has rendered him more integral in the centre of the back four — the position in which he’s played all three games of Stoke’s campaign thus far, and even secured an unlikely clean sheet against Manchester City at the Etihad last weekend.

6. Glenn Whelan: The 30-year-old gets a lot of flak from fans, but he remains a solid option in the centre of the park. Whelan has looked disconcertingly short of energy in recent Ireland displays, but the Dubliner has started the season off relatively well at Stoke, featuring in all three of his league games, whereas his main potential rival for a place in the side — Darron Gibson — is desperately short of match fitness and looked a little sluggish at times against Oman, prompting him to commit a poor tackle for which he was yellow-carded just prior to his substitution.

Aiden McGeady's goal attempt hits the crossbar Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

(Aiden McGeady almost scored a stunner against Oman)

7. Aiden McGeady: McGeady is another player who tends to attract plenty of criticism, but the fact that he has earned 69 caps clearly illustrates that the Everton star is a valued member of the team. And the ex-Celtic winger is undoubtedly a useful player — he registered more assists than anyone else in the team during Ireland’s ultimately successful European Championships qualifying campaign and was unlucky not to score the other night with an uncannily similar effort to his opening day goal against Leicester.

8. James McCarthy: There remain lingering concerns, expressed by ex-player John Giles among others, that the Everton star lacks a commanding presence and isn’t quite developing into the top midfielder that he clearly has the potential to become — his display, for instance, in Everton’s recent clash with Chelsea was disappointing, as he let Eden Hazard escape him all too easily for the Londoners’ third goal. That said, McCarthy is undoubtedly Ireland’s most talented central midfielder and is effectively guaranteed to start provided he is fit.

9. Shane Long: The Tipperary native gets considerable criticism for his inept finishing, and there is no doubting it could be better — the recent glaring open-goal miss for Southampton in their opening weekend clash with Liverpool is a sight Ireland fans will have become familiar with in recent times, and just 21 goals in his last three seasons at club level adds credence to suggestions that he is far from a natural goalscorer. However, Long’s off-the-ball work is still crucial to Ireland’s play, while of the current squad, his record of 11 goals in 49 appearances is bettered only by Kevin Doyle (14 in 59) and Robbie Keane (62 in 135), so he is surely still the best option up front currently.

10. Robbie Keane: A key decision for Martin O’Neill will be whether he selects a proven goalscorer in Keane, or Wes Hoolahan, who arguably brings more creativity and defensive solidity to the fold. His decision to start Hoolahan in a largely second-string side against Oman indicates Keane will get the nod for the Georgia game, but Hoolahan may still be brought in for matches whereby another body is needed in midfield, such as the away fixture against a formidable Germany side.

11. Robbie Brady: With McGeady seemingly nailed on for a place in the team, the other spot on the wing appears very much up for grabs, particularly with James McClean ruled out through injury. Anthony Pilkington and Brady seem to be the two main contenders to operate there, though Jon Walters has also taken up the position for Ireland in the past. As ordinary as his contribution was in general play against Oman, Brady made two assists with superbly delivered set pieces — a part of the Hull player’s game that could prove crucial come Sunday.

Formation 4-4-2: Forde; Coleman, Ward, O’Shea, Wilson; McGeady, Whelan, McCarthy, Brady; Keane, Long.

What do you think the Ireland starting XI should be against Georgia? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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