Dublin: 10°C Monday 25 October 2021

3 players who could break into Stephen Kenny's Ireland squad

The Irish boss names his squad for the crucial Euros play-off against Slovakia tomorrow.

Jack Byrne has been in impressive form for Shamrock Rovers of late.
Jack Byrne has been in impressive form for Shamrock Rovers of late.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

1. Jack Byrne

Byrne featured intermittently under previous boss Mick McCarthy but didn’t do enough to secure a place in Kenny’s first squad, though the Dubliner was placed on the standby list. However, the Shamrock Rovers star’s form has improved since then, catching the eye in their Europa League loss to AC Milan, while also scoring twice in their 4-0 victory over Dundalk at the weekend. Kenny attended both games in question and must consequently be tempted to give the midfielder the nod this time around, particularly with Ireland looking short of creativity in that area during the recent matches with Bulgaria and Finland.

2. Gavin Bazunu

The three goalkeepers from Kenny’s last squad, Caoimhín Kelleher, Darren Randolph and Mark Travers, have just one senior league appearance to their name between them this season. Travers featured in Bournemouth’s Championship encounter with Blackburn, but Asmir Begovic has since been preferred, with boss Jason Tindall defending the decision. Moreover, Travers pulled out of the weekend’s game with Norwich after an injury in the warm-up and could consequently miss the Slovakia match. Kieran O’Hara had also originally been picked for Kenny’s squad, before dropping out due to injury, but the Burton Albion man has not played a senior game since February. By contrast, Bazunu, who has been a regular in the Ireland U21 squad of late, has already impressed in five appearances for League One outfit Rochdale, who he joined on loan recently from Man City. The 18-year-old is highly unlikely to start against Slovakia, but Kenny would ideally like to have at least one goalkeeper in his squad who has been seeing first-team action on a sustained basis.  

3. Jimmy Dunne

Injuries have meant Dunne has been given a chance in Burnley’s first team this season, with the Dundalk native scoring on his debut in the 4-2 loss to Leicester and retaining his place in the 1-0 defeat to Southampton on Saturday. The Irish squad isn’t exactly short on top-quality centre-backs — Shane Duffy, Darragh Lenihan, John Egan and Dara O’Shea all featured in the last squad, with Dunne’s Burnley team-mate Kevin Long among those to miss out. It therefore won’t be easy for the 22-year-old to get a call-up, but an injury to a key defender would mean he is likely to be one of the first names on standby.


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Paul Fennessy

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