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Dublin: -1°C Saturday 17 April 2021

Duffy, Arter, Horgan and more: It's our Irish XI of 2016

Find out who makes the cut.

The below team takes into consideration matches played for both club, and where applicable, the national team.

GK: Darren Randolph (West Ham)

IT’S EASY TO forget that the Wicklow man only made his competitive debut for Ireland in the famous 1-0 win against Germany in October of last year.

To his credit, Randolph has made the transition from back-up goalkeeper to first-choice look seamless after a fine summer. The former Birmingham City shot-stopper breeds confidence into his defence, while his superb distribution is a real asset to the Irish team.

At 29, Randolph is about to hit his prime and will be aiming to cement his place as West Ham’s number one next year.

Republic of Ireland v Belgium - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de Bordeaux Source: Martin Rickett

RB: Séamus Coleman (Everton)

Leadership qualities was not something you would have associated with Coleman at the start of the year.

Previously the defender would expertly, but quietly, do his job at right-back but with the armband he has grown more vocal on the pitch, demanding the best out from his teammates.

The night in Lille against Italy saw Coleman set the tone. Never has he ever been as animated in a green jersey. And Ireland reaped the awards.

The Donegal man has continued his inspirational form into the World Cup qualifiers and will be a key figure if Ireland are to make it to Russia.

One of Everton’s most consistent performers, the Toffees will be hoping Coleman does not see his future away from Goodison Park.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy Source: John Walton

CB: Shane Duffy (Brighton)

Huge pressure was put on Duffy’s relatively young shoulders when he took to the field for his first competitive cap, against Italy in Euro 2016.

The Derryman produced a near-faultless performance against Antonio Conte’s men, and even though he was sent off in the last-16 tie against France, Duffy would have earned valuable experience in the tournament.

Linking up with Chris Hughton as Brighton’s record signing seems a good move for both parties, after the 24-year-old started the season with three own goals and a red card for Blackburn Rovers.

Duffy can look forward to a promising new year.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy Source: John Walton

CB: Andy Boyle (Preston)

One of Dundalk’s star players during their European campaign, Boyle grew as a defender the further the Lilywhites progressed in Europe.

The 25-year-old was named in the PFAI Premier Division Team of the Year for the third consecutive time in October, with his consistent displays catching the eye of several British clubs before he opted to join Championship side Preston this month.

The three-time League of Ireland winner’s fine form was also rewarded by Martin O’Neill with a first call-up to the Ireland squad for the World Cup qualifier against Austria.

Andy Boyle Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

LB: Robbie Brady (Norwich)

No matter what happens in the rest of Brady’s promising career, he will always have that moment when he brought the country to their feet.

The versatile Dubliner epitomised Ireland’s never-say-die spirit when he sprinted from his own half late on to make sure he got on the end of Wes Hoolahan’s cross to bring unbridled joy for Irish fans across the world. And to be honest, that goal alone would probably been enough to see him make this XI.

His early penalty against France also made him the first Irish player to score more than one goal in the European Championships, but his all-round game, not just his goals, have been so impressive in the past 12 months.

A return to the Premier League should be on the cards in 2017.

Source: Gaming | Vlogs | Entertainment/YouTube

CM: Harry Arter (Bournemouth)

The 26-year-old made his long-awaited competitive international debut against Austria in November, with the midfielder growing in confidence as the game progressed to help the Boys in Green to a historic three points.

Injury had ruled the Cherries midfielder out of O’Neill’s 23-man squad for France, but should Arter shake off niggling injuries that have forced him out of key matches for both club and country over the past 12 months, then he could get even better.

Having said that, Arter has made a fine start to the season with Eddie Howe’s side and will be the centre of transfer speculation, once the January window opens next month.

A late bloomer, Arter has the heart and technical ability to become one of Ireland’s most important players in the years to come.

AFC Bournemouth v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League - Vitality Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

CM: Jeff Hendrick (Burnley)

Arguably, Ireland’s best player in Euro 2016, while his fine performances in France ensured newly-promoted Burnley broke their transfer record to bring him to Turf Moor.

The 24-year-old played with authority throughout the tournament, that not many expected.

Demanding the ball from his teammates, not afraid to shoot and robust in the tackle – Hendrick looks like the complete midfielder.

The St Kevin’s Boys youth product has made a positive start to life in the Premier League and scored his first top-flight goal in the Clarets’ win over Watford in September, while his sensational solo effort against Bournemouth will no doubt be a Goal of the Season contender.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy Source: Michel Spingler

RM: Daryl Horgan (Preston)

The Galway man lit up Dundalk’s remarkable Europa League run and capped off another stellar season by being named the PFAI Player of the Year.

Not afraid to take on opposing defenders, the tricky winger was the hottest property in the domestic game, before he joined teammate Boyle at Deepdale.

His performances against title rivals Cork City, and Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League, illustrated why there have been so many calls for the diminutive winger to be selected for the national team.

A first cap surely awaits next year, after the 24-year-old was named on the bench for the qualifier in Vienna.

Source: FootballHighlights/YouTube

CAM: Wes Hoolahan (Norwich)

Just as Brady will always be remembered for the winning goal against Italy, equally Hoolahan could have been haunted forever by missing that glorious chance just moments earlier.

BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce during the game summed it up perfectly when he said: “Has the chance gone? The chance of his life. The man who scored in the opening game, who gave Ireland such hope, could have put them through. Wes Hoolahan will see that in his nightmares forever more.”

In many ways that one minute of action is what the attacking midfielder is all about. He is not afraid to try, he is not afraid to fail.

His bravery may not be obvious in the traditional sense – by putting his body on the line – but he will never shy away from responsibility.

Just seconds after the miss, his inch-perfect cross was met by Brady to give Ireland one of their most memorable victories.

At 34, Hoolahan’s game time needs to be managed, but he is still able to sparkle for Norwich in the Championship with this magic goal against Rotherham.

Source: KoacTV/YouTube

LM: James McClean (West Brom)

LIke so many other players in this XI, McClean has reached new heights in 2016.

Even though the former Derry City man’s commitment to the national team has never been in question, the fact he played in the victory against Austria after suffering a muscle tear in his back prior to the game yet again proved the pride he has in playing in green.

His performance though against Italy in hindsight, looks like a watershed moment in his career, with his tireless display in the wing giving the Italian defence a torrid evening.

Three important goals in his last two qualifiers has helped earn Ireland six precious points. It seems McClean is maturing as person and as a footballer.

Austria v Republic of Ireland - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Ernst-Happel-Stadion Source: John Walton

CF: Shane Long (Southampton)

A lack of alternatives sees the Southampton forward claim the last spot in the team.

Six goals in the second half of last season, saw Long hit double figures for the first time in the Premier League, which gets him a spot in the side.

And even though the Tipperary native failed to register a goal in his four starts during Euro 2016, his work ethic would not have gone unnoticed by management and fans alike.

A disappointing start to the new season for the 29-year-old means he will be as keen as ever to hit the ground running next year.

Southampton v Newcastle United - Barclays Premier League - St Mary's

Notable mentions: Matt Doherty (Wolves), John Egan (Brentford), Greg Cunningham (Preston), Stephen Ward (Burnley), Stephen O’Donnell (Dundalk), Chris Forrester (Peterborough United), Conor Hourihane (Barnsley), Sean Maguire (Cork City), David McMillan (Dundalk).

Who would be in your XI? Let us know in the comments section below.

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