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What sort of shape are the Ireland squad in ahead of next week's World Cup qualifier?

How Shane Long and all the other Boys in Green squad members have fared since the start of the season.

N.B. WE’RE LIMITING this list to players who could face Serbia, hence the exclusion of Robbie Keane et al.

Goalkeepers

Darren Randolph (West Ham United)

West Ham United v Astra Giurgiu - UEFA Europa League - Play Off - Second Leg - London Stadium West Ham United goalkeeper Darren Randolph appears dejeceted after the final whistle during the UEFA Europa League playoff match at the London Stadium. Source: Nick Potts

As expected, Randolph has started the season as second choice to Adrian at West Ham, despite signing a new four-year deal with the club in the summer. Moreover, the Hammers’ surprise exit from the Europa League was a particular blow for the Bray native, as it means his game time this season is likely to be significantly lessened as a result.

Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday)

Westwood has played every minute of Championship action for Sheffield Wednesday since the start of the 2016-17 campaign. Yet despite the 31-year-old picking up two clean sheets, the Owls have struggled at times, and currently sit 19th in the Championship after five games.

David Forde (Portsmouth, on loan from Millwall)

Perhaps on the advice of Martin O’Neill, Forde has moved away from Millwall on loan in search of first-team football. The 36-year-old Galway native has been a regular for Portsmouth in League Two since the new season began and has conceded just three goals in five games thus far.

Defenders

Seamus Coleman (Everton)

Wayne Rooney Testimonial - Manchester United v Everton - Old Trafford Everton's Seamus Coleman playing during Wayne Rooney's testimonial earlier this month. Source: EMPICS Sport

Coleman, who captained Ireland in two of their Euro 2016 matches, has yet to play for Everton competitively this season and is a serious doubt for the Serbia game.

Cyrus Christie (Derby County)

Christie is odds-on to start for Ireland against Serbia assuming Coleman doesn’t recover quicker than expected. Martin O’Neill will therefore be happy that the 23-year-old has been a regular in a Derby backline that has conceded only three times in six games.

Richard Keogh (Derby County)

Like his Ireland colleague Christie, Keogh has once again been a consistent part of Derby’s backline. It hasn’t been the best of starts for the Rams, who currently sit 18th in the Championship, though it’s more owing to their problems in attack rather than defence, as indicated by their £8million purchase of Czech striker Matej Vydra from Watford yesterday.

Alex Pearce (Derby County)

As was the case last season, Pearce continues to find first-team football hard to come by at Derby. The 27-year-old has made just two League Cup appearances and one late cameo off the bench in the Championship this season. Should he continue to struggle for game time with Nigel Pearson’s side, he may start coming under pressure for his Ireland squad place, with young centre-backs such as Eoghan O’Connell and John Egan impressing at club level.

Paul McShane (Reading)

Another who has come back into the squad after missing out for the Euros, McShane has appeared in all of Reading’s Championship games so far, helping them earn clean sheets against Cardiff and Preston, but also being part of the backline that conceded four away to Newcastle.

John O’Shea (Sunderland)

O’Shea has made two Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but was taken off injured against Middlesbrough and is consequently a major doubt for the Serbia game. And interestingly, the Ireland veteran has been played in midfield for an injury-hit Sunderland by new boss David Moyes when available, rather than in his preferred centre-back position.

Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United)

Since joining from Villa in the summer, Clark’s game time has been limited, as he has featured in just two of Newcastle’s five Championship matches so far — the 4-1 defeat of Reading (where he was at fault for the goal that the Magpies conceded) and the 1-0 win over Bristol City. However, the London-born defender was an unused substitute against Brighton yesterday.

Marc Wilson (Bournemouth)

With little chance of game time at Stoke, it was clear Wilson badly needed a move, and he recently got his wish, with Bournemouth signing the 29-year-old defender. The Antrim native then scored on his debut in the League Cup 2-1 win against Morecombe during the week, but he has yet to play for his new side in the Premier League.

Stephen Ward (Burnley)

Encouragingly, Ward has played in all three of Burnley’s Premier League matches so far, but struggled along with the rest of the side as they were well beaten 3-0 by Chelsea yesterday.

Midfielders

James McClean (West Bromwich Albion)

Northampton Town v West Bromwich Albion - EFL Cup - Second Round - Sixfields Stadium West Brom's James McClean (centre) celebrates with team mates after scoring during the EFL Cup, Second Round match at the Sixfields Stadium, Northampton. Source: Rui Vieira

Having impressed when given a chance at Euro 2016, McClean will be disappointed that he hasn’t started either of West Brom’s Premier League games so far this season, despite setting up their only goal in the opening-day win over Crystal Palace after coming off the bench. The Derry native also scored in their League Cup loss to Northampton during the week.

Glenn Whelan (Stoke City)

Despite the arrival of Joe Allen from Liverpool, Whelan has played every minute of action for Stoke so far this season. Less encouragingly though, the club are currently bottom of the Premier League, having picked up just one point from their opening three games.

Aiden McGeady (Everton)

McGeady hasn’t played a match for Everton in over a year, with Ronald Koeman recently confirming that the player is surplus to requirements at Goodison Park. The 30-year-old desperately needs to find a new team — O’Neill’s admiration for the winger has been well documented, but his loyalty will be severely tested if he continues to find himself out in the cold at club level.

James McCarthy (Everton)

Emerged yesterday as a serious doubt for the Serbia game, after suffering a groin injury that manager Koeman says may require surgery. A much-talked-about move away from Everton now also seems less likely to happen in light of this latest development.

Jeff Hendrick (Derby County)

Along with Robbie Brady, Hendrick was Ireland’s star performer at the Euros. However, the midfielder has yet to set the Championship alight this season at Derby — injuries have meant the 24-year-old Dubliner has completed 90 minutes just once for the Rams since the beginning of the campaign, and he also looks unlikely to feature in Serbia as a result.

Stephen Quinn (Reading)

It’s been a disappointing beginning to the season for the 30-year-old Dublin-born midfielder. Quinn has yet to start a game for Reading in the Championship, and has had to be content with two substitute appearances as well as 120 minutes in the club’s League Cup penalty shootout win over MK Dons.

David Meyler (Hull City)

Far from the most glamorous player in the Ireland squad, Meyler has had a hugely encouraging start to the season with Hull. The Cork native has played in every minute of the club’s Premier League campaign, forming an impressive, diligent midfield three alongside Tom Huddleston and Sam Clucas, with Mike Phelan’s makeshift side defying expectations and picking up two wins in three games so far.

Harry Arter (Bournemouth)

Remains an integral part of Bournemouth’s side, though showed a lack of discipline and arguably cost his side a point by getting sent off in the recent 1-0 loss to West Ham. The 26-year-old central midfielder was back in the side against Palace yesterday though, and may well be in line to start for Ireland in Serbia, particularly if McCarthy and Hendrick fail to win their fitness races.

Eunan O’Kane (Bournemouth)

O’Kane looks set to remain a fringe player with Bournemouth this season, with the 26-year-old yet to feature in any of the Cherries’ games, while Wigan and Leeds both reportedly had bids rejected for the player during the week.

Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City)

O’Dowda has had to be somewhat patient since moving up two levels from Oxford to Bristol City in the summer. The promising 21-year-old winger has made five appearances for his new club in the Championship, though he has only featured off the bench in their two most recent games.

Robbie Brady (Norwich City)

Brady has featured four times in a Norwich side that has struggled for consistency, though while he is impressive as ever going forward, Canaries watchers remain unconvinced about his ability to play left-back, with the Dubliner receiving criticism for his defensive mishaps in the 3-0 loss to Birmingham yesterday.

Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City)

Started off the season very well, with a goal and an influential display in the 4-1 win against Blackburn, though the 34-year-old ex-Shelbourne player has cut a frustrated figure at times in the Championship, with Norwich currently underperforming and finding themselves 12th in the table.

Forwards

Jonathan Walters (Stoke City)

Stoke City v Manchester City - Premier League - The Bet365 Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

Injury problems meant Walters had a limited involvement for Ireland at Euro 2016 during the summer, while he’s had to be content with a role as Stoke’s impact sub this season, with the 32-year-old coming off the bench in all three of their Premier League games thus far.

Daryl Murphy (Ipswich Town)

With no goals in four appearances so far, it hasn’t been the best of starts to the season for Murphy. However, the 33-year-old Waterford native could have a much better chance of going on a goalscoring run at Newcastle, for whom he is on the verge of signing, as Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy revealed yesterday.

Shane Long (Southampton)

Compared with the frequent highs of the second half of last season, it’s been a somewhat slow start to the current campaign for Long. The Tipperary native has yet to score or complete 90 minutes in the Premier League under new boss Claude Puel, with both the Irish striker and the Saints in general struggling to rediscover the form of last season early on.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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