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Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Ireland's Declan Rice is considered an exciting prospect for the future.
# Crystal Ball Gazing
Here's what Ireland's team might look like for the 2022 World Cup
Four years and a half years out, we predict how the Boys in Green could line out.

Updated at 11.18

FOUR YEARS AGO, we speculated what an Irish team in 2018 might look like.

Some players we got right (Shane Duffy), some not so much (Jack Grealish).

Anyway, to keep up this tradition of sorts, we’ve taken a look at who we think might feature in an Irish side in four years.

We’ve included a mix of current players and hot prospects for the future.

Inevitably, there will be some instances where we turn out to be wrong. The life of a footballer is perilous and injuries among other issues can stop players from fulfilling their potential.

There is also always going to be a degree of guesswork involved as players develop at different rates and some individuals who go on to achieve great things do not necessarily stand out at youth level.

We’ve also risked incurring the wrath of a few current senior players who are conspicuously absent from the list — to those who are offended, we hope to be proven wrong and that the individuals in question produce several world-class performances for Ireland, rendering themselves undroppable in the process.

It’s also worth noting that the age listed is how old they will be in four years’ time as opposed to now.

Darren Randolph (age 35): There are a couple of decent-looking options coming through the ranks, including Man United’s Kieran O’Hara and Peterborough’s Conor O’Malley. However, Randolph won’t be easy to dislodge. Goalkeepers usually have a longer shelf life than outfield players — a 40-year-old Shay Given made Ireland’s squad for Euro 2016 — so it would be no surprise if Randolph stuck around for a while yet.

Seamus Coleman (age 33): One of those players you get the sense would do anything to be able to represent Ireland, Coleman’s leg break meant he missed the vital World Cup qualifiers with Denmark. He will consequently be eager to make up for lost time in the coming years.

Ryan Nolan (age 23): A hugely promising player, Nolan recently featured for Inter’s senior side in a pre-season friendly as he inches closer towards a more regular first-team spot. If he avoids bad injuries and continues at his current rate, he could well make the step up to senior level in future.

Shane Duffy (age 30): Most people’s choice as Ireland’s most impressive performer at club level last season, Duffy was integral for a Brighton side that defied expectations to comfortably avoid relegation, finishing 15th. He is expected to be a mainstay of the Irish side for years to come.

Ciaran Clark (age 32): Clark has been generally very good for Ireland in recent times, and enjoyed an excellent start to the season with Newcastle, before losing his place in team and last starting a Premier League game in February. He consequently will need to regain a first-team spot at the Magpies or elsewhere, but the centre-back has done enough for his country in the past to warrant a show of faith from Martin O’Neill.

Robbie Brady (age 30): Brady’s technical skills and dead-ball ability are likely to still be key in the years to come. The Burnley man is currently recovering from a long-term injury, and barring further disaster, he is expected to add considerably to his current caps tally of 39.

Alan Browne (age 27): Preston’s player of the season last year, Browne is currently a player of immense potential who will be coming into his peak years as the next World Cup approaches. He was towards the top of the table in terms of interceptions in the Championship last season, while he was also not averse to scoring the odd spectacular goal. He has earned a couple of caps for Ireland too, but you get the feeling there is more to come from the former Cork City youngster.

Declan Rice (age 23): By far and away the most exciting prospect to emerge from Ireland’s underage set-up in recent times, the defender/midfielder has just three caps so far, but he has been Ireland’s standout player on at least two of those occasions, winning man-of-the-match awards against Turkey and USA.

Jeff Hendrick (age 30): Widely perceived as Ireland’s best player at the 2016 Euros, Hendrick has struggled to recapture that form for his country since. He will therefore need to improve if he is to keep his place in the years to come, with James McCarthy getting closer to a return from injury, while the likes of Conor Hourihane, Harry Arter and David Meyler will be among the individuals providing competition for the central midfield spots.

Sean Maguire (age 28): From considering quitting football to fully-fledged Ireland international, it has been a dream last two years for Maguire. The 24-year-old had an encouraging first season with Preston that was marred by a hamstring injury, which saw him miss a considerable portion of the campaign. With obvious alternatives thin on the ground at the moment, if Maguire can build on his promising form from last season, he has the potential to be one of Ireland’s main strikers for years to come.

Adam Idah (age 21): Probably the most left-field choice on this list, Norwich youngster Idah has a long way to go before he can even start to think about representing his country at senior level. Yet he has impressed for the Irish U17s, while there even were reports last year linking the Cork native with Man United. Ireland badly need a greater depth of attacking options than that which they can realistically choose from at the moment — the early signs suggest Idah just might be good enough to go far in the game.

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Formation: 3-5-2/5-3-2


Coleman Nolan Duffy Clark Brady

Browne Rice Hendrick

Maguire Idah

In the squad: Kieran O’Hara (26), Conor O’Malley (27), Conor Masterson (23), Darragh Lenihan (28), Matt Doherty (30), Conor Hourihane (31), Ryan Manning (26), James McCarthy (31), Callum O’Dowda (27), Troy Parrott (20), James McClean (33), Scott Hogan (30).

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