5 things for Martin O'Neill to consider ahead of the Ireland squad announcement

The form of Darren Randolph and other thoughts ahead of Thursday’s press conference.

Martin O'Neill will name his squad for the games against Poland and Germany tomorrow.
Martin O'Neill will name his squad for the games against Poland and Germany tomorrow.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

MARTIN O’NEILL WILL name his provisional squad for the crucial Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland and Germany tomorrow.

There are expected to be few surprises in terms of personnel, however there are undoubtedly a number of important issues which O’Neill will need to consider ahead of the game. Here are five of them…

1. Will Darren Randolph be rewarded for his encouraging form?

Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - Charlton Athletic v West Ham United - The Valley Source: EMPICS Sport

Shay Given now appears firmly fixed as Ireland’s number one goalkeeper, however Darren Randolph’s recent form indicates he surely deserves to be backup at least.

With Adrian suspended, Randolph has started the last three games for West Ham, earning a clean sheet on two occasions, though he could still make way imminently, with his Spanish counterpart set to return from the ban for the Hammers’ next game.

David Forde is currently struggling to get a game in League One with Millwall, so perhaps O’Neill will be contemplating making Randolph his number two at least.

Rob Elliot and Keiren Westwood have also been considered for the goalkeeping position in the past, though the latter is currently out injured, while the former continues to struggle to make much of an impact at Newcastle.

2. How big a role will Stephen Quinn play?

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Reading v Ipswich Town - Madejski Stadium Source: David Davies

Martin O’Neill has tended to use Reading midfielder Stephen Quinn in the Irish team’s tougher away games — in fact, he has yet to feature in a competitive home game for the Derry native.

The 29-year-old started in the trips to Germany and Georgia, while he came off the bench against Scotland at Celtic Park.

With Germany at home and Poland away undoubtedly representing two of Ireland’s toughest matches of the campaign, O’Neill may be tempted to throw Quinn in at the deep-end once again.

While not flashy and in truth, seldom a goal threat, Quinn is a solid, dependable, workmanlike player who’s comfortable with the ball at his feet and capable of adapting to more or less any position across the midfield.

The ex-St Pat’s youngster’s qualities could consequently come in handy when Ireland are up against it next month.

3. Can Jeff Hendrick prosper at club level?

Soccer - UEFA European Championship Qualifying - Group D - Republic of Ireland v Georgia - Aviva Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

While a superb piece of skill from Hendrick set up Ireland’s winner against Georgia recently, Martin O’Neill suggested after that game that the 23-year-old may still have to fight for his place at Derby.

A mixture of injury problems and increased competition for places mean Hendrick has played the full 90 minutes in just two of Derby’s seven league games so far this season.

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For Ireland, by contrast, Hendrick has become an integral part of the set-up, featuring in all bar two of the Boys in Green’s matches (Georgia away and Poland home) and starting the last three consecutive fixtures.

Particularly with Glenn Whelan suspended, the Derby man looks a shoe-in to start against Germany and will likely keep his place for the Poland encounter as well. It will be another headache for O’Neill, however, if he can’t replicate this success at club level over the next few weeks.

4. Will Ciaran Clark retain his place at centre-half?

Soccer - Ciaran Clark File Photo Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Having been left out of the side for much of the campaign, Ciaran Clark started Ireland’s two most recent qualifers, against Gibraltar and Georgia, and barely put a foot wrong on either occasion.

Marc Wilson had done reasonably well in an Ireland jersey previously, but ostensibly suffered for his poor club form, as he has still played less than half an hour of Premier League action so far this season, albeit partially as a result of injuries.

In contrast, Clark had played every minute of Villa’s campaign, before also being consigned to a place on the bench for last Sunday’s 3-2 defeat by Leicester.

Let’s hope for Ireland’s sake that Sherwood was simply resting the 25-year-old centre-back after a tough couple of matches encompassing the unfamiliar scenario of competitive football at international level, as alternative centre-back options currently look a little thin on the ground for O’Neill’s side.

5. Will Wes Hoolahan be trusted in the big games?

Soccer - UEFA European Championship Qualifying - Group D - Republic of Ireland v Georgia - Aviva Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Following the defeat of Georgia, Martin O’Neill indicated that his side might as well “have a go” for the upcoming visit of world champions Germany.

While the Irish team will be eager to avoid a repeat of the 6-1 loss that occurred the last time the Germans came to Dublin, ‘having a go’ would surely indicate O’Neill is preparing to start Hoolahan — the team’s most creative and adventurous player going forward by some distance.

Hoolahan has been in fine form at Premier League level with Norwich, registering more assists than any other player this season and looking particularly impressive in the recent 3-1 defeat of Bournemouth.

However, the Norwich man didn’t start any of the away matches against Georgia, Scotland or Germany. Hence, the 33-year-old probably has a better chance of making the first XI at home to Germany rather than away in Poland, with O’Neill also famously admitting in the past that he had reservations about playing the ex-Shels midfielder away from home.

Originally published 16 September at 4.29pm

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Paul Fennessy

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