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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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Do you agree with our Ireland team to face Gibraltar?

We assess who could get the nod for Mick McCarthy’s first game back in charge.

The Republic of Ireland team huddle Ireland begin their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign on Saturday. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Goalkeeper/Defence

KEIREN WESTWOOD HAS been in excellent form for Sheffield Wednesday recently, with seven clean sheets in his last 11 Championship games, but Darren Randolph has been having a decent campaign too with Middlesbrough, and so Mick McCarthy is unlikely to drop the goalkeeper who was number one for the majority of Martin O’Neill’s reign.

At the back, Seamus Coleman is expected to feature on the right, while after Stephen Ward’s retirement, Enda Stevens, who has been in terrific form for Sheffield United in the Championship, could be given the chance to make the Irish left-back slot his own.

At the back, Shane Duffy is virtually certain to start, while the other position appears to be between Richard Keogh and John Egan, both of whom have been having decent seasons at club level. At 26, Egan is six years younger than his colleague. McCarthy may view the Gibraltar match as an opportunity to ease the Sheffield United player into international football, as with just four caps under his belt (none of which have been in competitive games), he remains relatively inexperienced at this level.

Midfield

Midfield is probably the area where the most debate is to be had in terms of selection. McCarthy will surely find room for Matt Doherty, who has been in superb form for Wolves in the Premier League this season. The 27-year-old indicated earlier this week that he would be open to playing in an unfamiliar right-wing role, and the Irish boss may well choose to proceed with this experiment.

On the other wing, James McClean could get the nod over Robbie Brady, who has not seen too much game time at Burnley since coming back from injury.

There are a couple of options in midfield, though the relatively attack-minded choice of Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane might well be suited to Ireland’s opponents, who are likely to spend much of the match with 11 men behind the ball. A defensive alternative, such as Glenn Whelan or Harry Arter, could subsequently come in for the more difficult Georgia encounter.

It would be a surprise to see the creative likes of Alan Judge or Jack Byrne feature from the outset, though either could potentially be sprung from the bench, particularly if Ireland are in need of a goal.

Attack

It is likely to be a choice between Sean Maguire, David McGoldrick and James Collins to start, with McCarthy seemingly preferring that trio to late call-up Aiden O’Brien.

There is a case to be made for Collins, given how many goals he has scored at Luton this season as well as the likelihood that Gibraltar are hardly of a higher standard than the average League One side.

That said, Sean Maguire and David McGoldrick are playing at a higher level than Collins, and the 31-year-old Sheffield United striker has also registered his fair share of goals, with 12 to his name so far this season.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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