Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Darko Vojinovic
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Martin O’Neill faces some tough calls ahead of tomorrow night’s match.

Updated at 17.03


THE EASIEST DECISION Martin O’Neill has to make. Both Ian Lawlor and Danny Rogers have yet to be capped at senior level, so barring a late injury, West Ham’s Darren Randolph is set to make his seventh start of the season in all competitions.


Centre-back is probably the most hotly contested position in the Irish team, as emphasised by the fact that four players were used there at Euro 2016. Shane Duffy’s positive overall performance at the tournament means he is in strong contention to feature, as he returns from the suspension that rendered him unavailable for the Serbia trip.

Ciaran Clark wasn’t involved in Serbia either (barring a last-minute cameo from the bench), so the final central slot would conceivably be between John O’Shea and Richard Keogh. The latter got the nod for Ireland’s final two Euro 2016 matches, and Keogh has had more game time this season than his counterpart, with O’Shea having made just three Premier League appearances owing to injury problems. Consequently, the Derby man is favourite to start tomorrow’s game.

At full-back, Seamus Coleman is virtually certain to start, while it will be interesting to see whether O’Neill goes with Stephen Ward or Robbie Brady at left-back. Brady failed to impose himself on the game in midfield against Serbia, but improved when he was moved to full-back, though the 24-year-old has struggled defensively at times at club level, while Ward has impressed in the Premier League with Burnley.

Midfield and Attack

In a game that Ireland need to win, it will be interesting to see whether Martin O’Neill opts to retain both Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy. It also depends, of course, on whether McCarthy wins his race to be fit following a layoff that has seen him miss a number of recent Everton games. With Harry Arter set to be absent through injury as well and Stephen Quinn already ruled out, David Meyler would be the most likely option to fill in for McCarthy, with Eunan O’Kane and Stephen Gleeson, who have just six caps between them, unlikely to figure.

With Georgia expected to set up defensively, O’Neill could emulate the system he previously deployed against Germany, Italy and France, picking McCarthy as the lone holding midfielder. Jon Walters, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Long are all expected to start, though Wes Hoolahan’s place is less certain, with the Norwich man consigned to the bench in recent matches.

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James McClean’s place in the team could depend on whether or not Brady is picked in an advanced role, though O’Neill may be tempted to count on the Derry native as an impact sub — a role in which he has been highly effective in the past.

Team to face Georgia (4-5-1):


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