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Dublin: 18 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020

Here's what the Ireland team to face Denmark should be

Martin O’Neill faces some difficult calls in the coming days.


Our XI: Randolph; Christie, Clark, Duffy, Ward; Arter, Hendrick; Brady, McClean, McGeady; Long.

Goalkeeper and defence

Ireland have conceded just six goals in 10 World Cup qualifiers, so it’s unlikely Martin O’Neill will opt to make any changes to the backline. That means the usual suspects — Randolph, Ward, Clark, Duffy and Christie are expected to start.

Wolves’ Matt Doherty has been playing very well at club level, though it seems unlikely that O’Neill will throw him in at right-back for such a big game, with the player having yet to even make his international debut.


The decision of which players to put in central midfield has been made easier by the enforced absences — David Meyler is suspended, while James McCarthy is injured.

Eunan O’Kane and Conor Hourihane have been doing relatively well at club level this season, though their lack of experience at international level will probably count against them.

Consequently, O’Neill will probably go with two out of Jeff Hendrick, Glenn Whelan and Harry Arter to sit in front of the back four.

The fact that it’s a game Ireland don’t need to win probably gives the edge to Whelan in O’Neill’s eyes. The downside of picking the Aston Villa man is that at 33, he does not get around the pitch as quickly as he once did and does not possess the athleticism of a player like Hendrick, who O’Neill may be tempted to push further forward in Copenhagen.

But including Whelan in the team does not necessarily guarantee greater defensive solidity — the last international game the Dubliner started was Georgia away, when the Boys in Green were cut open far too easily by their opponents.

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Given that they have always played when available during this World Cup qualifying campaign, James McClean and Robbie Brady are almost certain to be part of the attacking three behind the striker. The bold choice would be to go with either Callum O’Dowda, Aiden McGeady or Wes Hoolahan alongside them.

Before the Wales game, in an interview with RTÉ, O’Neill suggested that Hoolahan cannot start two games in quick succession, so he might want to save him for the home match, which Ireland will likely need to win.

Up front, it seems like a straight choice between Shane Long and Daryl Murphy. The latter is arguably more of a goal threat than the former. Murphy has scored three goals to Long’s one, despite the Nottingham Forest man playing 339 minutes less than his colleague during this World Cup campaign.

However, at 34, expecting Murphy to play two games in quick succession is a big ask (even though he achieved this feat in the last round of matches), so O’Neill may be tempted to keep the Waterford native for the home leg, particularly given that he is one of the 10 Irish players who are a booking away from suspension.

Moreover, while he has not scored a goal for club or country since 11 February against Sunderland, Long’s pace and ability to run the channels would be an asset in a game where Ireland will be doing most of their attacking on the counter.

Predicted XI: Randolph; Christie, Clark, Duffy, Ward; Brady, Arter, Whelan, Hendrick, McClean; Long.


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Paul Fennessy

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