what if
Here's the 2014 Irish Fantasy Football team of the year
There are some notable omissions and surprise inclusions in the starting XI.

Ireland XI

OCCASIONALLY, AND IT was especially apparent during the Giovanni Trapattoni era, it seems as if the Irish football team is being picked on an ever-so-slightly-random basis.

Premier League players are ignored in favour of Championship journeymen, Seamus Coleman goes from being supposedly not good enough to make the squad for a major tournament to one of the team’s most important players in the space of a couple of months, Robbie Keane gets picked to play as a lone frontman but not as part of a two-man strike-force and so on…

But what if it was actually picked at random or, at least, using abstruse logic? What if say, Fantasy Football points were taken into account? Well, if it were the case, the starting XI would see some subtle but not drastic changes.

With Shay Given and Brian Murphy (neither of whom have played this season) his only Premier League challengers, Rob Elliot’s feeble five points earned for Newcastle would be enough to give him a starting spot in goal.

Seamus Coleman is the top scoring Irish defender (and joint-top scoring player in the side) with 54 points, while John O’Shea has earned a similarly impressive 51. Meanwhile, injury problems have restricted Stoke’s Marc Wilson to just 31 points. And Ciaran Clark, who is one behind Wilson on 30 and who like the Stoke man can play at full-back or in the centre, has only recently earned a spot in the Villa first team, after having been out of favour at the start of the season.

In midfield, there is no place for Glenn Whelan and David Meyler, with James McCarthy — despite his recent injury problems — and Stephen Quinn making up the central pairing. Aiden McGeady has fought off competition from Robbie Brady for a place on the wing, while Jon Walters is comfortably the highest scoring player of the lot with 54 points.

Up front, there are literally only two options (unless you count the improbable possibility of players such as Harry Kane declaring for Ireland through the ‘granny rule’) — Shane Long, who has earned a decent enough haul of 38 points and, owing to a lack of alternatives, Kevin Doyle, who has picked up just three points all season having struggled to get first-team football at Palace.

Ireland XI: Rob Elliot (Newcastle – 5 points); Seamus Coleman (Everton – 54 points), John O’Shea (Sunderland – 51 points), Marc Wilson (Stoke – 31 points), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa – 30 points), Jon Walters (Stoke – 54 points), Stephen Quinn (Hull – 24 points), James McCarthy (Everton – 25 points), Aiden McGeady (Everton – 32 points), Shane Long (Southampton – 38 points), Kevin Doyle (Crystal Palace – 3 points). Subs: Shay Given (Aston Villa – 0 points), Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace – 17 points), Robbie Brady (Hull – 16 points).

What do you think? Would you prefer the above side to the ones Martin O’Neill has fielded in the Euro 2016 qualifiers? And who would be in your best Irish team of 2014?

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