Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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# dream team
The42's ridiculously early Ireland starting XI for Euro 2016
We put on our manager’s hat – as well as a regular cap – to predict Martin O’Neill’s thinking.

IS SIX MONTHS too far out to predict Ireland’s possible starting XI for their Euro 2016 opener? What the hell, let’s give it a go anyway.

Martin O’Neill showed a propensity to throw at least one curveball into almost every team selection during the qualification campaign but he did arrive at a somewhat settled side during Ireland’s strong finish.

We are going to go for a very much in vogue 4-2-3-1 formation and here is how we see/hope Ireland lining up this summer in France.

GK – Darren Randolph

During a recent conversation about this position, a friend mentioned that he felt Shay Given should retain his place at the Euros – it was one of the two or three most shocking sentiments I had heard expressed all year.

Given showed no form throughout qualifying while Randolph looked assured between the posts since being roused out of obscurity mid-way through Ireland’s famous 1-0 win over Germany.

What’s more, the West Ham back-up has actually made a string of smart saves since and you never know, he could be good for another heat-seeking laserbeam of an assist.

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LB – Robbie Brady

Should he be further up the pitch? Possibly, but the prospect of Ireland having two attacking fullbacks bombing up the wings is very enticing. Brady’s set-piece ability has been slightly overrated – he needs about five attempts to clear the first man – but he is always good for one excellent delivery per game that often results in a goal.

He grew in stature as the campaign progressed and as one of the side’s few Premier League regulars it will be interesting to see how much he has grown by this summer.

CB – Ciaran Clark

Clark and Richard Keogh formed an excellent partnership in the absence of John O’Shea but the Aston Villa man should probably retain his place in the side at Keogh’s expense. Clark is relatively assured on the ball for a centre-back and made some superb last-ditch challenges to deny some of Europe’s most potent strikers during qualifying.

CB – John O’Shea

John O'Shea celebrates after the game Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

It was tempting to stick with Keogh given the formidable tag-team he formed with Clark but you just can’t leave John O’Shea out. He is a heroic figure for Ireland as well as a great defender but as one of the oldest players on the team, his experience will be vital too.

RB – Seamus Coleman

Coleman is one of the premier right backs in the Premier League but he never quite reached his best form for Ireland during the qualification campaign. If Ireland are to do anything remotely memorable this summer, they will need an improved attacking performance from the Everton defender.

DM – Glenn Whelan

Whelan divides opinion like few players in the history of Irish football but it is hard to argue that he didn’t put in some of his best performances in the last year. There is still a question of whether his presence in the side detracts from James McCarthy’s effectiveness but Martin O’Neill is unlikely to shift from his preferred midfield duo at this stage.

Plus, he is on the road to finally winning Dunphy over.

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DM – James McCarthy

Had his best ever Ireland performance against Germany, finally showing the tigerishness that people wanted to see. More of that this summer please.

LM – Jon Walters

Just get this man in the side and he will make things happen! Walters has taken over from Joe Schmidt as the nation’s sporting hero and we think that Martin O’Neill might pick him high up on the wing where his tenacious pressing can pay dividend.

AM – Wes Hoolahan

Wes Hoolahan with Ognjen Vranjes Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

The Irish management team have finally placed a bit of trust in the attacking dynamo and he has repaid them with constant probing of opposition defences with tight passes. Still frustrating that he is often the first player called ashore but imagining what he might do this summer is a very exciting prospect.

RM – Jeff Hendrick

He wasn’t as effective in possession in the closing stages of the campaign as he had been earlier on, but he is still usually good for one sumptuous moment per game. Quality assists against Germany away and Georgia at home proved the difference in Ireland nailing down that playoff spot.

ST – Shane Long

Surely Long will get the nod over Daryl Murphy if he is fit this summer? Does anyone else get the feeling that this summer could be Long’s breakout just like Robbie Keane in 2002?

Roll on France!

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