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3 key questions for Martin O'Neill after the Dutch draw

The Ireland boss still has plenty to contemplate ahead of the Euro 2016 squad announcement on Tuesday night.

Martin O'Neill will confirm his 23-man Euro 2016 squad on Tuesday after the Belarus game.
Martin O'Neill will confirm his 23-man Euro 2016 squad on Tuesday after the Belarus game.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

1. How many strikers will O’Neill bring to the Euros?

THIS QUESTION WILL be key to the hopes of both Kevin Doyle and David McGoldrick in their bid to make Ireland’s 23-man squad.

It is presumed that, barring injury, Shane Long, Robbie Keane, Daryl Murphy and Jon Walters will all be on the plane to France. That leaves, at best, one more place available.

Following last night’s match, O’Neill reserved words of praise for McGoldrick, who started yesterday’s game against the Netherlands, and showed some nice touches, linking up the play expertly at times.

However, the Ireland manager also pointed to the Ipswich striker’s record with injuries, so it’s difficult to read too much into his thinking when it comes to McGoldrick.

Moreover, when asked last night about Tuesday’s clash against Belarus, O’Neill cited Robbie Keane and Daryl Murphy as two players he was eager to give game time to — but perhaps tellingly, he neglected to mention Doyle.

The Colarado Rapids star has been very much on the periphery of the Irish squad since moving to the MLS — while Robbie Keane is a special case, O’Neill seems less willing to indulge others intent on spending the majority of their time in US.

Consequently, the 32-year-old forward looks the most likely man to miss out in the Ireland forward line, while McGoldrick’s status also remains uncertain.

2. Which of the midfield hopefuls will miss out?

Following the recent removal of Paul McShane and Alex Pearce, coupled with Marc Wilson’s season-ending injury, it seems unlikely that any more defenders will be cut from the Ireland squad.

Consequently, a number of midfielders are set to be excluded at the last minute.

Barring a huge shock, 21-year-old Oxford winger Callum O’Dowda will not make it onto the plane, as stepping up from League Two to tournament football at such a young age is surely too much to ask of a player who has yet to even be capped at international level.

There will likely be either seven or eight midfielders travelling, depending om whether O’Neill brings four or five strikers.

The certainties are as follows: Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, Wes Hoolahan, Aiden McGeady and James McClean.

That leaves at best two out of David Meyler, Darron Gibson, Stephen Quinn, Harry Arter and Eunan O’Kane to join the aforementioned players.

On the evidence of last night, man-of-the-match Harry Arter appears to be in pole position to claim a spot, despite his relative lack of international experience, while the outlook appears significantly less promising for Eunan O’Kane and Darron Gibson, both of whom were restricted to cameo roles against the Dutch.

If there is room for one more, it’s likely to be between former clubmates at Hull, David Meyler and Stephen Quinn. The latter’s stock has fallen significantly since the beginning of the campaign, when he made the starting XI for trips to both Georgia and Germany. Moreover, Meyler’s ability to slot in as an emergency full-back if needed might just give him the edge in this personal duel.

3. What to make of the problematic goalkeeping situation?

After starring roles in the competitive matches since coming off the bench in the Germany game last October, there has been a presumption that Darren Randolph is now the automatic choice for the number one jersey.

However, the Bray native, having impressed towards the end of the qualifying campaign, has looked a little shaky in recent weeks.

Randolph was badly at fault for one of the goals in West Ham’s penultimate Premier League game of the season, as they overcame Man United 3-2, while last night, he also looked less than assured on one or two occasions.

Martin O’Neill criticised the 29-year-old goalkeeper’s decision-making for the Dutch goal, and he avoided one potentially embarrassing moment, as the Hammers stopper mis-kicked a ball straight at a Dutch player, though fortunately for the Irish net-minder, the ball rebounded favourably for him.

There are also concerns with the back-up goalkeepers, as David Forde and Shay Given have both had very little first-team football this season.

Although Keiren Westwood, who is in play-off final action today, has been in excellent form throughout the campaign for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, Martin O’Neill has appeared reluctant to pick him ahead of the aforementioned trio in the past, and it seems unlikely that he will perform a dramatic u-turn at the last minute.

Accordingly, Ireland are likely to travel with three goalkeepers who have all struggled for first-team football this season, with two of them close to retirement age.

Predicted squad as it stands

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Shay Given, David Forde.

Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward, Robbie Brady, Ciaran Clark, John O’Shea.

Midfielders: Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Harry Arter, Jeff Hendrick, Wes Hoolahan, Aiden McGeady, James McClean, David Meyler.

Strikers: Daryl Murphy, Robbie Keane, Shane Long, Jon Walters.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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