Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Ireland's Will Smallbone pictured during the Latvia friendly.
3 winners and losers from Ireland's latest international window
Will Smallbone and others who impressed for Stephen Kenny’s side over the past few days.

The winners

1. Chiedozie Ogbene

The window started well for Ogbene as he came off the bench to score the winner against Latvia and it got better thereafter. With Kylian Mbappe having little interest in tracking back, there was always going to be space to exploit down France’s left. Amply supported by Seamus Coleman, Ogbene was key to keeping Kylian Mbappe quiet. Down the other end, meanwhile, the Nigeria-born winger gave AC Milan star Theo Hernandez — widely regarded as one of the world’s best full-backs — a torrid time. Ireland’s Player of the Match has been continually linked with a move away from Championship outfit Rotherham in recent months, with Club Brugge,  Standard Liege, Swansea, and Middlesbrough among the clubs reportedly interested. On the basis of Monday night’s display, the 25-year-old will have done his chances of securing a big move no harm. With his current contract due to expire this summer, it seems likely that there will be no shortage of offers for the talented attacker. 

2. Evan Ferguson

He didn’t exactly take France by storm but that shouldn’t detract from a remarkable couple of days for Ferguson. In the space of a week, he has made both his full debut and his competitive debut for Ireland, in addition to scoring his first international goal. Still only 18 years old, the Meath native put in a mammoth shift on his own up front and looked absolutely exhausted by the time he was replaced by Adam Idah in the 64th minute against the World Cup runners-up. Ferguson, who has seven goals from 16 games in all competitions for Brighton this season, has recently been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham, and Man United, with the Red Devils reportedly sending scouts to watch him play at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday. One of the big criticisms of the Stephen Kenny era has been that Ireland have too often lacked a cutting edge in the final third, but the former Bohemians youngster’s performance in this window suggests he might well be the man to solve this long-term problem going forward.

3. Will Smallbone

Ahead of this window, Smallbone was never likely to play against France, but his man-of-the-match performance against Latvia last week suggested he could prove to be an invaluable player for Stephen Kenny in the future. Had Ireland opened their qualifying campaign against Gibraltar rather than France, then he surely would have had a strong chance of featuring. One of the biggest issues under Kenny has been unconvincing displays against the smaller nations in which the Boys in Green have lacked a creative spark. The 23-year-old highlighted his importance in that department after just six minutes against the Latvians, as his pinpoint cross was headed home by Callum O’Dowda. Given his delivery from crosses and set pieces, he was unlucky not to at least get called from the bench against Didier Deschamps’ men last night, and a start in the next competitive match away to Greece in June is far from inconceivable. He has grown into his loan move at Stoke, registering a hat-trick of assists in their win over Sunderland last month, and the Potters will no doubt be keen to keep hold of him beyond this season. “He’s not going to be naturally creative number 10, nor somebody who plays in pockets and plays on the half-turn all the time. He’s industrious, he runs beyond the ball,” manager Alex Neil told Stoke on Trent Live last month.

“But what he will do is add more assists, he’ll add more goals and he’s a throwback to the midfield player who will hit the box late and land on things. He’s more than capable of doing that and he will get more goals. There are no doubts in my mind about that.”

The losers

troy-parrott Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Troy Parrott pictured after the Latvia game. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

1. Troy Parrott

Struggled to make a significant impact after being introduced in the 72nd minute against Latvia, Parrott was somewhat of a surprise omission from the squad for the French game. However, with Adam Idah returning and the emergence of Evan Ferguson, someone had to miss out and on this occasion, it proved to be the young Dubliner. Stephen Kenny will point to the fact that he has been in indifferent form amid an injury-interrupted campaign at Preston. The 21-year-old has scored just two Championship goals for a side currently 12th in the table. He has 24 league appearances this season, but has just started four times since the start of the year, with Ireland U21 starlet Tom Cannon often preferred in attack.

2. Caoimhin Kelleher 

Arguably should have done better for at least one of the goals in the friendly against Latvia, with Gavin Bazunu, who produced a solid performance against France, seemingly comfortably in control of the Ireland number-one jersey as it stands. That state of affairs is unlikely to change anytime soon or at least until Kelleher can secure a move away from Liverpool and establish himself as a first-team regular elsewhere. The 24-year-old has made just three appearances for Liverpool this season, all of which have been in the cup competitions, and his lack of regular game time isn’t doing Ireland any favours or making the goalkeeping call as complicated as it arguably should be for Kenny. There have been reports that the Cork native will consider his future in the summer, with Aston Villa among the clubs rumoured to be interested in his services.

3. Robbie Brady

Having gotten over long-term injury issues, Brady looked like he might be set to re-establish himself as an important figure under Kenny. Last September, he came off the bench in Ireland’s Nations League defeat to Scotland before starting and scoring in their 3-2 win over Armenia. He also featured in the last window, coming off the bench in their 2-1 loss to Norway. However, Brady appears to have slipped down the pecking order and is now ostensibly behind another player who has had recent issues with long-term injuries — Callum O’Dowda. He was originally left out of the squad for the games versus Latvia and France, but was a late call-up following doubts around O’Dowda’s fitness for the latter game. However, despite the Cardiff star ultimately missing out through injury, Brady still did not make the matchday squad, with Matt Doherty instead being used on the left before James McClean was sprung from the bench late on. Perhaps he is another player whose increasingly limited role is primarily owing to indifferent club form, having started just four Championship matches for Preston since the turn of the year.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel