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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Donall Farmer/INPHO Shane Long will be hoping to start ahead of Robbie Keane tonight.
# Opinion
'Here's what the Ireland starting XI to face Scotland tonight should be'
James McClean or Jonathan Walters? Robbie Keane or Shane Long? Here’s what we think.

Paul Fennessy

David Forde; Seamus Coleman, Richard Keogh, John O’Shea, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady, Jeff Hendrick, Darron Gibson, Stephen Quinn, Jonathan Walters; Shane Long.

THE BIG DECISION here is obviously dropping Robbie Keane. He’s probably been Ireland’s greatest ever striker on the basis of international performances at least, but (excluding the Gibraltar game) he hasn’t been performing well of late for the Irish side. Against both Georgia and Germany, he was relatively ineffectual, and his substitution in both games coincided with the team’s overall improvement. In tight matches away from home, a striker such as Shane Long, who can work the channels and who offers pace and presence, is badly needed.

Elsewhere, dropping James McClean may seem harsh given that he did relatively well against Gemany, but Jon Walters is in better form for his club and he offers greater goal threat and game intelligence, even if he lacks the speed of the Wigan man, while Aiden McGeady will hopefully be selected on the wing rather than the number 10 role, where he didn’t look too comfortable against Germany.

Ryan Bailey

David Forde; Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Richard Keogh, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Quinn, Jon Walters; Robbie Keane.

There’s little reason for Martin O’Neill to alter from what has served him well during the opening three matches of this qualification campaign on Friday evening. There will, of course, be enforced changes in personnel but the 4-5-1 system deployed in Tbilisi and Gelsenkirchen is unlikely to be adjusted — particularly for a game of this magnitude. With the Derby pair of Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick likely to deputise, the one selection uncertainty is who will be deployed on the wing opposite Aiden McGeady. Given Jon Walters’ defensive diligence, he may just get the nod over James McClean. Up top, it would be a brave decision to leave Robbie Keane on the bench.

Niall Kelly

David Forde; Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Richard Keogh, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Quinn, James McClean; Robbie Keane.

It’s hard to see Martin O’Neill starting with anything other than a 4-5-1 and the main areas of debate are due to the injuries at centre-half and in centre-midfield. Keogh, Quinn and Hendrick have all earned their shot and Walters will probably just be edged out on the wings by McGeady and McClean. Robbie definitely has a goal or two in him on Friday night, and Shane Long will have to make do with a place on the bench again.

Steven O’Rourke

David Forde; Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Richard Keogh, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Quinn, James McClean; Robbie Keane.

I’m with Niall on the 4-5-1. As McCarthy hasn’t made the cut, I have Gibson coming in to replace him. Missing Marc Wilson at the back gives former U21 captain Richard Keogh a chance to take his Championship form on to the international stage.

Eoin O’Callaghan

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David Forde; Seamus Coleman, Richard Keogh, John O’Shea, Stephen Ward; Jeff Hendrick, Darron Gibson, Aiden McGeady, James McClean; Jon Walters, Robbie Keane.

In the midst of all the fanfare over a derby, Ireland are still missing their first-choice central midfield while Scotland’s is strong — Brown sets the tempo and Morrison is substantially under-rated. It’s obviously a huge occasion for Keogh too and both Stevens (Fletcher and Naismith) have impressed in Scotland’s games so far and are a nice mix of old-fashioned attacker (Fletch) and modern, thoughtful striker (Naismith). In other games, Scotland’s tactic has been to isolate Anya and Fletcher has picked him out superbly twice — for his goal against Germany and assist against Poland. So, there’s plenty for the Irish defence to worry about.

But, in such a high-intensity game, it’s great to know that Ireland are such a throwback with two wingers (a rare thing these days). I’m not sure Scotland have the discipline or intelligence to make things very narrow so there will be space for McGeady and McClean to exploit.

There is a question mark over one thing — formation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Neill go with Walters and have him drop deep. They don’t need to worry too much about keeping the ball because Scotland don’t play that type of game. So, selecting Quinn may be a little too cautious for what this fixture represents.

5 talking points ahead of tomorrow’s all-important Scotland-Ireland game>

Tomorrow, it’s not going to be Celtic Park. Tomorrow, it will be Scotland’s park’ – Strachan>

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