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Long in, Brady out - Predicting Mick McCarthy's squad for defining Slovakia clash

Do you agree with our 24-man selection?

Shane Long playing for Ireland against Denmark in the 2018 Nations League.
Shane Long playing for Ireland against Denmark in the 2018 Nations League.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THERE SHALL BE no more foostering about with bloated provisional lists: Mick McCarthy will name his definitive squad for the Euro 2020 play-offs on Friday. The final list is usually a 24-man squad, so let’s take a look at who’s in the mix and who’s in danger of missing out. 

Goalkeepers 

darren-randolph Darren Randolph. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Darren Randolph has left a central role at the foot of the Championship for a fringe gig at the wrong end of the Premier League, but he is still locked in as Ireland’s number one later this month. 

Ireland lack depth beyond Randolph, with Kieran O’Hara currently serving a six-game ban at club level for biting an opponent and Mark Travers uninvolved in Bournemouth’s matchday squads.

Caoimhin Kelleher at Liverpool, meanwhile, has picked a bad time to get injured. With Alisson Becker out for a little while, Andy Lonergan has been promoted to the bench as back-up to Adrian.

Keiren Westwood remains frustratingly out of favour at Sheffield Wednesday. 

Predicted: Randolph, O’Hara, Travers. 

Defenders 

matt-doherty-after-the-game Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

McCarthy has indicated that Seamus Coleman is out, so Matt Doherty should get another chance at right-back having impressed in the final qualifier against Denmark (the concession of their goal, notwithstanding.) Doherty has been in terrific form for Wolves, and has been nominated for the Premier League’s Player of the Month award for February. Cyrus Christie is the likely deputy. 

Shane Duffy has flitted in and out of the Brighton team – he didn’t play against Wolves at the weekend – but is a guaranteed starter under McCarthy given he’s probably our best hope of scoring a goal. He will probably continue as captain in Coleman’s absence, and will be partnered in defence by John Egan, who continues to excel for Sheffield United. 

Ciaran Clark is out with injury and with Richard Keogh also out, Darragh Lenihan is likely to be brought as cover along with Kevin Long

There is some concern over Enda Stevens, who was taken off during Sheffield United’s win over Norwich with a calf niggle, but McCarthy is confident he will be available. 

Derrick Williams’ ability to cover left-back and centre-half means he should get the nod, although injury has restricted him to a single game of first-team football since the turn of the year. He has returned to training and should be fit, but will be woefully short of match sharpness should he be thrown into action. 

Beyond that: Greg Cunningham is out, while QPR’s Ryan Manning has not yet found favour with McCarthy, so it would be a surprise to see him in the mix. 

Predicted: Doherty, Christie, Duffy, Egan, Lenihan, Williams, Kevin Long, Stevens.

Midfielders 

james-mccarthy James McCarthy playing for Ireland in Moldova in 2016. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Glenn Whelan has found first-choice football with Fleetwood Town in League One, so he’ll be on the list. As will the other regulars: Jeff Hendrick, Conor HourihaneJosh Cullen, and Alan Browne. 

From there: some big decisions. 

The mood music around Jack Byrne indicates he will be included, so that leaves two vacant places. 

James McCarthy should be picked on form, so if he’s not included it may be a case of it being his decision rather than his manager’s. If he isn’t, Harry Arter may make a return.

Robbie Brady has plenty of credit in the bank with Ireland and with McCarthy, but he struggled to make a lasting impression in the qualification campaign and is desperately short of practice, having played all of one Premier League minute since New Year’s Day. 

Taking that into consideration, he and Callum O’Dowda may miss out to Alan Judge, who has the benefit of helping to turn the qualifier draw against Denmark in Ireland’s favour. 

Predicted: Whelan, Hendrick, Hourihane, Cullen, Browne, Byrne, McCarthy, Judge. 

Forwards 

david-mcgoldrick-celebrates-scoring-the-equalising-goal David McGoldrick. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

David McGoldrick is back from injury and is certain to be included: he may well be announced as the 2019 Player of the Year while he’s in camp.

Two of the Irish strikers most reliant on confidence have mercifully found some: Shane Long has three goals in eight games and the unflinching belief of his manager, while Scott Hogan has found a happier life on loan at Birmingham and scored seven times in eight matches. Long has yet to make an appearance under McCarthy, but he should force his way back into this squad. 

James McClean has spent the last month out with injury, but he is expected to be fit in time for the Slovakia clash, if not earlier. His energy and enthusiasm has made him a firm McCarthy favourite thus far and will travel. 

That leaves one more spot. Aaron Connolly is unlikely to fill it, Troy Parrott has no chance, and James Collins has slipped down the pecking order. Ronan Curtis has been closely scouted in recent weeks, while Sean Maguire’s goals have dried up at an inopportune time (he hasn’t scored since December).

Callum Robinson’s finding goals and minutes on loan at West Brom should earn him his place. 

Predicted: McGoldrick, Shane Long, Hogan, McClean, Robinson.

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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