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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 4 April, 2020

Here's what the Ireland starting XI to face Austria should be

Martin O’Neill faces some tough decisions ahead of Sunday’s game.

Ireland face Austria in a crucial World Cup qualifier this Sunday.
Ireland face Austria in a crucial World Cup qualifier this Sunday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO


THERE HAS BEEN much speculation over who will wear Ireland’s goalkeeping jersey on Sunday. Darren Randolph has been the number one up to this point and played well for Ireland in this role more often than not.

But having previously backed the Bray native as his number one, O’Neill was much more ambiguous when asked the question on Sunday evening after the Uruguay match. In that game, Randolph looked nervy, coming and failing to get the ball for the visitors’ goal having previously been fortunate to get away with an ill-advised backpass across his goal.

Keiren Westwood, by contrast, impressed following his second-half introduction. Football, of course, is all about confidence, and Westwood is playing with more of it at the moment, with Randolph out of favour at West Ham.

Dropping the Hammers stopper may seem harsh given what he has done, but sentiment must be cast aside for Sunday’s pivotal game.


Barring a late injury, the full-back slots seemed nailed on. In the absence of Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie has performed excellently so far, while Stephen Ward has been solid on the left. At the centre-back, it will be interesting. Kevin Long, Andy Boyle, John Egan and Alex Pearce are all almost certainly not going to feature, given their lack of experience at this level.

That leaves Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh and John O’Shea. The latter has had a bad season with Sunderland, so perhaps the Derby man deserves a place ahead of him. The fact that the Waterford native did not play a single minute in either of the recent friendlies is another indicator that he will have to be content with a place on the bench.

Duffy and Keogh as a pair, though, will still need to convince some critics that they are worthy of their places — the duo looked less than assured playing together in Ireland’s 2-1 defeat to France at Euro 2016.


At this stage, it seems likely that Harry Arter, Robbie Brady, James McClean and Jeff Hendrick will all start, on the basis of O’Neill’s previous selections.

The fifth spot is a big call — picking Wes Hoolahan or Glenn Whelan will largely determine what approach Ireland will take into the game. Both individuals have been dropped for big matches in the past — neither started Ireland’s 1-0 win over Italy at Euro 2016, for instance.

O’Neill experimented with playing Jeff Hendrick in the attacking midfield role against Uruguay and he may favour this option at the expense of Hoolahan on Sunday.

That said, if Ireland want to approach this game in a positive fashion, as has been suggested by management and players all week, then surely picking the Norwich star over the Stoke midfielder is the logical choice.


Ireland currently have just two natural strikers to choose from, therefore it is widely expected that it will be Jon Walters rather than Daryl Murphy who features this weekend, barring an injury to the former.

At 33, however, the Stoke attacker no longer possesses the energy he once had, so the Newcastle hitman may well be needed from the bench at some point.

What the Ireland team to face Austria should be:


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Paul Fennessy

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