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3 winners and 3 losers from Ireland's latest international week

We assess the players whose repuations were enhanced, as well as those whose position within the squad has been weakened.

The winners

Jon Walters

Ireland Bosnia Euro Soccer Source: Peter Morrison

JON WALTERS’ ABSENCE through suspension in the first leg against Bosnia was keenly felt. In the second leg, Martin O’Neill’s side posed much more of a threat in attack with the Stoke man in the side.

Walters ultimately inspired Ireland’s progression to the Euros, taking his two goals consummately and generally playing a crucial role in the victory.

When you factor in further important goals against Scotland, Poland and Georgia, it’s easy to see why the 32-year-old forward was most people’s pick for player of the campaign.

Robbie Brady

Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina - UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying - Play-off - Second Leg - Aviva Stadium Source: Niall Carson

Caught out a couple of times defensively in both games with Bosnia regularly threatening down the right, Brady made up for it in attack.

The Norwich star scored a superb away goal in the first leg, while in the return fixture at the Aviva, he delivered a man-of-the-match display, regularly posing a threat down the left and providing the assist for Walters’ second goal.

So whether it’s at left-back or on the wing, you get the sense that Martin O’Neill must now always find some way of accommodating Brady in the starting XI.

Ciaran Clark

Ireland Bosnia Euro Soccer Source: Peter Morrison

Given how little game time he’s had with Aston Villa this season, Ciaran Clark gave a laudable performance in both legs against Bosnia.

The Aston Villa man was handed the unenviable task of replacing John O’Shea — a veteran international with 108 Ireland caps.

Clark looked remarkably at home despite being part of a back four that had never played together up until that point, and indeed the defence was perhaps the most positive aspect of this campaign in general, having conceded just eight goals in 12 matches.

And with O’Shea, who will be 35 by the time the Euros roll around, not getting any younger, Clark and Keogh have shown their potential to forge a solid partnership at the back for years to come.

The losers

Stephen Ward

Stephen Ward Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It’s unfair to be overly harsh on Ward, given how little he has played at club level of late, but there is no doubt he was Ireland’s weak link in the first leg.

Time and again, Bosnia exposed the left-back, whose lack of game time and match sharpness became increasingly apparent, with Ward ultimately replaced by Marc Wilson after struggling to deal with the speedy right winger Edin Višća.

It was therefore no surprise that Ward was omitted from the starting XI in Dublin, with Robbie Brady reverting back to a less advanced position.

Left-back, in general, has been a problematic position for Ireland, with Brady more suited to playing further forward, and unless Ward can feature more regularly in the Championship between now and the Euros, the Burnley defender is unlikely to convince anyone that he is worthy of a regular place in the starting side.

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Shay Given

Soccer - FA Cup - Sixth Round - Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion - Villa Park Source: EMPICS Sport

Given didn’t play by virtue of injury in either leg against Bosnia, but having been the obvious number one goalkeeper prior to his game ending prematurely against Germany last month, his selection now no longer seems assured.

Darren Randolph has performed flawlessly since coming in for Given and can rightly feel confident of continuing in goal for the foreseeable future.

Given, at 39, is more than 10 years older than Randolph, and while Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have emphasised the importance of experience in the past, the West Ham stopper — as the more viable long-term option in nets — looks best placed to win this personal duel for a coveted place in the team in France next summer.

Robbie Keane

Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina - UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying - Play-off - Second Leg - Aviva Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

For the first time during this campaign, Robbie Keane did not play a minute of action during the latest international week.

The Bosnia matches were just the second and third games of the campaign overall that Keane had no involvement in (he also didn’t feature in the home game against Germany).

It therefore feels like an illustrious career encompassing 67 goals in 143 appearances is coming to an end, with the LA Galaxy star struggling to make an impact over the course of the campaign in general (with the obvious exception of the two Gibraltar matches).

That’s not to say the 35-year-old striker is finished at international level, however — if Ireland need a goal in a crucial Euros match next summer, Keane will still probably be one of the first people Martin O’Neill turns to from the bench.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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