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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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Do you agree with our predicted Ireland XI to face New Zealand?

Mick McCarthy is unlikely to start too many of his key players in the game.

Above is an image of the Irish team that faced Bulgaria.
Above is an image of the Irish team that faced Bulgaria.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

TO PREDICT THE Ireland starting XI against New Zealand on Thursday, you first really need to consider what the team will be the following Tuesday against Denmark.

With a vital Euros qualifier on the horizon, McCarthy is unlikely to risk many of his star players in a friendly.

That is not to say players who feature against New Zealand have no chance of figuring against the Danes.

James Collins made a goalscoring debut in the friendly against Bulgaria last September and was subsequently rewarded with starts in the crucial qualifiers against Georgia and Switzerland.

But all in all, the team that takes to the field on Thursday is likely to be second string.

McCarthy has confirmed that Jack Byrne, Troy Parrott and Lee O’Connor will feature, though whether it’s from the outset remains to be seen.

He also made clear that both reserve goalkeepers, Kieran O’Hara and Mark Travers, will get 45 minutes each.

For the pivotal Denmark game, by contrast, the 60-year-old coach is unlikely to veer from the tried and tested.

So firstly, here’s our predicted starting XI for the Denmark game: Randolph; Doherty, Egan, Duffy, Stevens; McClean, Whelan, Hendrick, Browne, Robinson; McGoldrick.

And as for New Zealand?

Goalkeeper/defence

As the more experienced of the two, O’Hara, who has been a regular in League One with Burton this season, may have the edge over second-choice Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers. That said, Travers did start the Bulgaria game, so it would be no major surprise if he did so again.

In the backline, Kevin Long and Ciaran Clark appear to be the most likely centre-back pairing. Given the lack of alternative options, 19-year-old Celtic youngster Lee O’Connor may well play at full-back as Matt Doherty is wrapped in cotton wool ahead the Danes’ visit to the Aviva.

With Enda Stevens likely to be rested, Derrick Williams is a strong candidate to play at left-back, unless McCarthy emulates Martin O’Neill’s habit of sometimes playing Robbie Brady there.

Midfield

Most of the big hitters are expected to be held in reserve in midfield. Charlton’s Josh Cullen could win his second cap, while it will be interesting to see whether Conor Hourihane or Alan Browne plays — the player omitted from those two will probably start the Denmark game.

Alan Judge, Robbie Brady and Callum O’Dowda have all been on the fringes of the squad under McCarthy so far, with the trio likely to be given another chance to impress in low-key circumstances.

Shamrock Rovers’ Byrne would be a popular choice to start, but the fact that he’s been left out of the matchday squad on more than one occasion for competitive fixtures indicates McCarthy has yet to be fully convinced and he may have to settle for another appearance off the bench.

Attack

Up front, there are plenty of options, but Collins will probably get the nod, given that he has clearly impressed McCarthy in the past, while McGoldrick, with his recent history of injury problems, will surely be saved for next week’s encounter. Scott Hogan and Sean Maguire will also be optimistic of getting some game time.

Predicted Ireland team to face New Zealand: O’Hara; O’Connor, Clark, Long, Williams; Hourihane, Cullen, O’Dowda, Brady, Judge; Collins. 

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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