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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Alternative XI: Players that Martin O'Neill should have looked at ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Two Dundalk players make the cut.

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill has gone with a rather conservative squad selection ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualification campaign.

With a friendly at home to Oman to come before the tricky trip to Serbia, the former Sunderland manager looks set to stick with the core of the team that secured qualification for Euro 2016.

Below is a list of available players that may feel that they deserved an opportunity to impress O’Neill at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday evening.

GK: Stephen Henderson (Nottingham Forest)

The 28-year-old moved to Forest from relegated Charlton Athletic in the summer, where he made 54 appearances in an injury-disrupted two-year spell.

Henderson endured a difficult start at the City Ground, where he conceded 10 goals in his first three league games. But three successive wins has seen the former Ireland U21 international begin to settle at his new club.

With Portsmouth’s David Forde, who will turn 37 later this year, included in the squad, the former West Ham goalkeeper may feel his time will still come.

Nottingham Forest v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship - City Ground Source: EMPICS Sport

RB: Matt Doherty (Wolves)

The versatile Wolves defender has continued his good form from last season, where he picked up the club’s Player of the Year award.

The 24-year-old, has featured at left-back this season, but is perhaps most comfortable on the right side.

The former Bohemians player has already netted his first goal of the season, at home to Reading earlier this month.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship - Molineux Source: Paul Roberts

CB: John Egan (Brentford)

The Cork-born defender joined Championship side Brentford after being named in the PFA League One Team of the Year last season.

The 23-year-old had an impressive goalscoring record at Gillingham, where he scored 10 league goals in 81 matches, and scored twice for the Bees in their 2-0 victory over Ipswich at the start of the season.

O’Neill knows Egan from the pair’s time together at Sunderland, but the commanding centre-back failed to play a competitive game for the Black Cats.

Brentford v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship - Griffin Park Source: Steven Paston

CB: Andy Boyle (Dundalk)

The 25-year-old may be a surprise name on the list, but he has been one of Dundalk’s outstanding performers during their European campaign, and was one of seven Lilywhite players to be named in last season’s PFAI Team of the Year.

A key figure in Stephen Kenny’s side, the former Shelbourne defender will be hoping a good run in the Europa League will force O’Neill to consider the Dubliner for October’s matches against Georgia and Moldova.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Second Qualifying Round - Second Leg - Dundalk v BATE Borisov - Oriel Park Source: Brian Lawless

LB: Greg Cunningham (Preston)

Another Irishman that claimed his club’s Player of the Year award last season, Cunningham already has four Ireland caps to his name.

The 25-year-old has operated as a wing-back at Deepdale, and will challenge for the left-back spot for Ireland in the years to come.

Reading v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship - Madejski Stadium Source: Ian Smith

CM: Chris Forrester (Peterborough United)

Playing in a deeper role than he did while at Inchicore, the former St Pat’s midfielder has flourished with Peterborough United in League One.

Regarded as one of the best players in England, outside the top two divisions, the 23-year-old was rewarded with an extended contract and the captain’s armband after an impressive debut season with the Posh.

Forrester was included in an extended O’Neill squad before Euro 2016, but failed to make the reduced panel.

Peterborough United v West Ham United XI - Pre-Season Friendly - ABAX Stadium Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

CM: Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham City)

An unassuming player, Gleeson has been a regular in the Championship with Birmingham for the past couple of seasons.

The 28-year-old is a reliable midfielder that likes to break up the play and start attacks from deep. The former MK Dons player won two senior caps in 2007 under Steve Staunton as Ireland ended the season with a tour of America.

Huddersfield Town v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship - The John Smith's Stadium Source: Richard Sellers

CM: Conor Hourihane (Barnsley)

The Barnsley captain is one of the best uncapped Irish players playing at the moment.

The 25-year-old has already scored twice in the opening five matches of the Championship season – as well as picking up a couple of man-of the-match awards.

An all-action midfielder, the Cork native has superb vision and is a deadly threat from set-pieces having set up three goals for the Tykes in the league this season.

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Barnsley v Middlesbrough - Oakwell Source: Barrington Coombs

RM: Anthony Pilkington (Cardiff City)

With Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes injured, Pilkington snatches one of the attacking positions in the side.

The Cardiff City forward has had a rather stop-start Ireland career, despite much being expected of the Blackburn-born player when he burst onto the scene with Norwich in the Premier League.

Niggling injuries haven’t helped his progress, but with limited attacking options at O’Neill’s disposal it was a surprise to see the 28-year-old excluded from the squad.

Cardiff City v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship - Cardiff City Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

LM: Daryl Horgan (Dundalk)

It has been suggested for the last couple of seasons that Horgan will be the next big export out of the League of Ireland, and it’s not hard to see why.

The dying art of dribbling with the ball and taking on opposition defenders is the 24-year-old’s forte, and he will get the chance to showcase his talents in the Europa League group stages this autumn.

The Galway man lost out to Richie Towell to be named PFAI Players’ Player of the Year, but may be set to get his hands on the prize later this year.

Dundalk v Legia Warsaw - UEFA Champions League Qualifying - Play-Off First Leg - Aviva Stadium Source: Niall Carson

CF: Joe Mason (Wolves)

The 25-year-old is still waiting for his first call-up to the international squad, but may not have to wait too much longer due to the dearth of striking talent available to the Irish manager.

A solid start from Mason has seen him score two Championship goals so far this term, and if he can fire Wolves to a promotion push, he should be in the frame for his first Ireland appearance too.

Brentford v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship - Griffin Park Source: EMPICS Sport

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About the author:

Shane Costello

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