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Darren Randolph has struggled for first-team action at West Ham.
Darren Randolph has struggled for first-team action at West Ham.
Image: Mike Egerton

Player ratings: How the Ireland squad are shaping up for Slovakia

The pivotal play-off takes place in Bratislava on 26 March.
Mar 2nd 2020, 3:45 PM 10,917 16

N.B. We’ve confined this list to the last squad and a few others who we think might have a shot of featuring.

Goalkeepers

Darren Randolph: The 32-year-old West Ham stopper hasn’t played a senior game since featuring in the Hammers’ 1-0 loss to West Brom in the FA Cup. While McCarthy has in the past punished players like Shane Long for not playing regularly, the Ireland boss recently suggested he would likely stick with the Bray native in goal owing to his experience and the lack of obvious alternative options. 5/10

Kieran O’Hara: The youngster, who is on loan from Man United at Burton, has been playing regularly for the League One side. He featured in the 1-1 draw at Peterborough for the club that are currently 12th in the table. 7/10

Mark Travers: The 20-year-old Maynooth native has just six appearances under his belt this season for Bournemouth, the last of which was in the FA Cup loss to Arsenal in January. 5/10

Defenders

Ciaran Clark: Having been out of favour towards the end of the Rafa Benitez era, Clark won his place back in the Newcastle team under Steve Bruce. He appeared to be enjoying his best spell for quite some time, but his progress has been curtailed by what looks like a season-ending injury, which rules him out of the Slovakia trip. 7/10

afc-bournemouth-v-brighton-and-hove-albion-premier-league-vitality-stadium Shane Duffy hasn't always been an automatic pick for Brighton. Source: Mark Kerton

Shane Duffy: Unlike under Chris Hughton, Duffy hasn’t always been an automatic starter for Brighton since Graham Potter took charge, but played 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United last week, while missing the weekend’s game against Crystal Palace due to a family funeral. 6/10

Enda Stevens: A strong contender for Irish player of the season from a club perspective, Stevens has been in terrific form for the eight-placed Blades, making 32 appearances in all competitions this season, and scoring a superb goal against Brighton last week. 9/10

Kevin Long: As has invariably been the case, the 29-year-old Cork native has been a squad player for Burnley this season, appearing just four times for the Clarets. He is likely to occupy a similar role at international level, only coming into the team if first-choice centre-backs are unavailable. 5/10

Matt Doherty: It’s been another fine campaign for the Dubliner, who many would regard as the best Irish footballer in the Premier League. He got a goal and an assist against Tottenham at the weekend, taking his overall tally for the season to eight. Moreover, with Wolves sitting sixth and only behind Man United on goal difference, there is a decent chance he could be playing Champions League football next year. 9/10

Seamus Coleman: The 31-year-old Donegal native has been used a bit more sparingly by Everton as he gets older, but he remains a valued team member. An injury suffered at the weekend against Man United, however, throws his Ireland selection into doubt. 7/10

John Egan: The 27-year-old Cork native has been a model of consistency at the heart of the Sheffield United defence, adapting to his first season of Premier League football seamlessly. He would be expected to start, if fit, in Bratislava. 9/10

Midfielders

fleetwood-town-v-coventry-city-sky-bet-league-one-highbury-stadium Glenn Whelan has been rejuvenated since joining Fleetwood. Source: Richard Sellers

Glenn Whelan: After being left out in the cold by Hearts, the 36-year-old secured a much-needed move to Fleetwood in January. He has been featuring regularly since then. Despite his age, he seems as fit as ever. He managed two games in a short space of time recently, completing 90 minutes in Fleetwood’s 1-0 win over Portsmouth last Saturday, and then again in their 1-1 draw with Sunderland on Tuesday. While the likes of Jayson Molumby and James McCarthy have been in good form of late, Ireland boss McCarthy strongly hinted he would stick with Whelan during a recent press event. 6/10

James McClean: After a tough start to the season amid Stoke’s woeful form, James McClean looked to have discovered something like his best form under Michael O’Neill in the Championship. However, the 30-year-old is now a doubt for the Slovakia game, with a medial ligament knee injury currently keeping him out of action. 6/10

Jeff Hendrick: The 28-year-old Dubliner has been a regular as part of a Burnley team that are making their usual strong finish to the season. Having looked in danger of falling into relegation trouble at one point, the Clarets are currently ninth and virtually assured of another year in the top flght thanks in no small part to the efforts of Hendrick, who has made 27 appearances in all competitions. 7/10

Robbie Brady: Unlike Hendrick, Brady has been struggling to get into the Burnley team on a regular basis. The 28-year-old has been a bit-part player, featuring 15 times, with his last Premier League start coming amid the New Year’s Day 2-1 loss to Aston Villa. 5/10

Conor Hourihane: Given that he was playing in League One four seasons ago, and League Two six seasons ago, Hourihane deserves enormous credit for turning himself into a Premier League player. That said, it hasn’t been an entirely satisfactory campaign for the Bandon-born midfielder. He has been in and out of the Villa team this season and had to make do with a 70th-minute substitute appearance during the League Cup final on Sunday. 6/10

Alan Judge: The 31-year-old Dubliner has been starting most games for Ipswich, though he rarely completes 90 minutes. Judge has four goals this season, including a brace in his side’s 4-1 win over Burton earlier this month. He has mainly been used as an impact sub by McCarthy though and is unlikely to start in Bratislava. 6/10

Alan Browne: It’s been another solid season for the 24-year-old, who has made 43 appearances in all competitions. He has played in a slightly less advanced role for Preston at times this season, but he remains a key player for the club who are currently sixth and in contention for a spot in the Championship play-offs. 7/10

Jack Byrne: Last season’s PFAI Player of the Year has begun this season as he carried on for much of the previous year. The Dubliner scored a spectacular winner in his side’s 3-2 victory over Dundalk on Friday, capping off a fine performance. McCarthy has used him sparingly so far, but he has certainly done enough to at least retain his place in the squad. 8/10

Josh Cullen: The 23-year-old is currently on loan at Charlton from West Ham. An ankle ligament injury kept him out of action for all of December and much of January, but Cullen is now back in the side and has become a very important player for the Addicks, who are currently 20th and battling to preserve their Championship status. 7/10

Forwards

manchester-city-v-sheffield-united-premier-league-etihad-stadium David McGoldrick has had injury problems of late. Source: Anthony Devlin

David McGoldrick: While still awaiting his first Premier League goal, the 32-year-old enjoyed an excellent start to the season, serving as a pivotal part of the Blades’ attack, as they continue to punch above their weight after only gaining promotion from the Championship last season. It has been more frustrating of late for McGoldrick, however. Injury problems have restricted him to just three appearances since the turn of the year, coming off the bench for the final 16 minutes of last week’s 1-1 draw with Brighton. 7/10

Callum Robinson: The 25-year-old became Sheffield United’s record signing in the summer, but struggled to establish himself with the Blades. He has looked resurgent, though, since dropping down a division to join West Brom on loan, scoring twice in seven appearances for the promotion chasers. 6/10

Sean Maguire: With just four goals in 34 appearances in all competitions, Preston attacker Maguire admits he would like to be scoring more regularly. However, the former Cork City star is still a valued team member and has consequently been playing fairly regularly for Alex Neil’s men. 6/10

James Collins: The 29-year-old has had a decent season with Luton, registering 11 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions. Nonetheless, having been promoted from League One last year, his side are currently struggling. They sit bottom of the Championship and appear in serious danger of relegation. 7/10

Troy Parrott: The Dubliner made his second Premier League appearance at the weekend, coming on in the dying moments of Spurs’ 3-2 loss at Wolves. However, he has been largely on the periphery of the Tottenham team and that is unlikely to change anytime soon, with Jose Mourinho reiterating yesterday that the 18-year-old is not ready for regular football at the club. Mick McCarthy recently expressed frustration at his failure to secure a loan move in January, and that may well cost him his place in the Ireland squad for this month’s pivotal clash. 5/10

Potential bolters

millwall-v-west-bromwich-albion-sky-bet-championship-the-den Ireland U21 international O'Shea recently broke into the West Brom team. Source: Adam Davy

Dara O’Shea: O’Shea is primarily a centre-back, but has been used as a full-back in recent times by West Brom, featuring 12 times in total for the Championship club, with all bar two of those appearances coming since the turn of the year. 7/10

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Lee O’Connor: O’Connor featured in the friendly for Ireland against New Zealand last November, before returning to the U21 squad. He joined Scottish Championship side Partick from Celtic in January and has made five appearances since. With doubts surrounding Seamus Coleman’s fitness, McCarthy may again be tempted to call on the 19-year-old’s services. 6/10

Darragh Lenihan: The 25-year-old is widely considered one of Blackburn’s best players and has been a linked with a move to Sheffield United among others. The Dunboyne native has made 31 appearances in all competitions this season, and would be a decent back-up option to the first-choice pairing of Duffy and Egan. 8/10

Ryan Manning: The Galway native started out further forward but has been used as a left-back by Championship side QPR of late. His impressive form in that position contributed to the club’s decision to award him with a new contract last month. 8/10

Jayson Molumby: The 20-year-old has been hugely impressive this season, playing regularly in the Championship with Millwall. Though McCarthy is likely to opt for a more experienced campaigner in the play-offs, Molumby looks virtually certain to become a senior international in the near future. 8/10

Callum O’Dowda: O’Dowda has impressed for Ireland in the past, but his form at club level has tended to be inconsistent. That said, he has enjoyed a decent season with Bristol City, appearing 27 times in total, while McCarthy has trusted him in big games before, bringing him off the bench at half-time of the 2-0 loss to Switzerland. 6/10

Kieran Sadlier: The 25-year-old former Cork City star has yet to appear for Ireland at senior level, though McCarthy has namechecked him of late. And it’s no surprise, as he’s been enjoying an excellent season with Doncaster in League One, scoring 12 goals in total and making 39 appearances. 8/10

James McCarthy: McCarthy has enjoyed his best season in years in terms of appearances, making 25 in total. That said, he went off with an injury — the seriousness of which is yet to be confirmed — at the weekend, while the Ireland boss has suggested he has been reluctant to commit to a return to international football in light of his well-documented fitness problems. 7/10

Harry Arter: The 30-year-old has made 20 appearances since joining Fulham on loan from Bournemouth — it would have been more were it not for an injury suffered in October, which kept him out for around two months. His only appearance under McCarthy came in the 1-0 win over Gibraltar at the start of the campaign, but he could be perceived as a decent option, particularly as an alternative to the ageing Whelan. 7/10

Ronan Curtis: The former Derry player, who is set to feature for Portsmouth in the FA Cup against Arsenal tonight, has enjoyed a fine season with 13 goals in all competitions. Ireland aren’t exactly blessed with an abundance of options on the left wing, and with McClean’s fitness uncertain, McCarthy may be tempted to include the in-form 23-year-old as part of his plans. 8/10

Shane Long: The Tipperary native was initially left out in the cold by both McCarthy and Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhüttl. However, he has won his place back in the Saints team in recent times, and McCarthy may be tempted to follow suit and reward him with a place in the Ireland squad. 7/10

Michael Obafemi: The 19-year-old Dubliner has three goals in 18 appearances for Southampton, including one at the weekend against West Ham. Eight of his appearances have come since the turn of the year and Irish strikers playing with relative regularity in the Premier League are thin on the ground. 6/10

Aaron Connolly: The Galwegian attacker, who turned 20 in January, would likely have featured in Ireland’s most recent qualifier against Denmark were it not for an injury he picked up. After bursting onto the scene with two goals against Tottenham last October, the Brighton youngster’s form has been patchy and he has failed to score in eight starts since then. 6/10

Scott Hogan: After a frustrating loan spell at Stoke, Hogan appears to have rediscovered his love for the game since signing for Birmingham in January. He has scored six times in seven appearances since his latest loan move, including two at the weekend against QPR. Such form surely warrants a place in the squad at the very least. 7/10

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Paul Fennessy

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