A Potential Squad For The 2022 World Cup?

While the spectre of COVID-19 looms over any potential return to football, us Boys and Girls in Green are left to wait for our new dawn under the messaic Stephen Kenny. With Irish football absent at present, we over at COYBIG have been passing the time remembering the halcyon days of our past and dreaming of a bright new future. On that note, we thought it’d be fun to imagine what we’ll look like under Kenny – his imagined first XI has already been done to death by football writers far more talented than any of us, so we’re instead going to take a wild swing at what our first World Cup squad in 20 years will look like when Steo tops our qualifying group (obviously). 

Goalkeepers

Darren Randolph – 35 (12/5/87)

While he won’t be a spring chicken by any means by the time WC 22 rolls around, we can’t imagine any other man in between the sticks throughout Kenny’s first qualifying campaign. He’s worn the yellow jersey with distinction ever since a whirlwind competitive debut in our famous 1-0 victory over Germany in 2015, and has kept us in games we’ve had no right to remain competitive in. Given that he’s recently moved back to London to warm West Ham’s bench, we predict that two years of deputising for Lukas Fabianski will serve to lengthen his career and keep him in top shape for the next few years. Barring any shocks, he’ll be our #1. 

Mark Travers – 23 (18/5/99) 

Along with Gavin Bazunu & Caoimhín Kelleher (who’s unlucky to miss out on the plane to Qatar), Mark Travers is the future of Irish goalkeeping. After a spectacular PL debut against Spurs last season, Mark has found playing time limited this season due to the form of Aaron Ramsdale in the Bournemouth net. We foresee that battle for the #1 jersey continuing for a while, and so he probably won’t head to the World Cup as first choice – but the experience will hopefully serve him well in future tournaments. 

Kieran O’Hara – 26 (22/4/96)

O’Hara’s contract with Manchester United expires this summer and with David De Gea, Dean Henderson, Sergio Romero and Joel Pereira all ahead of him in the pecking order, it’s unlikely he’ll be a Red Devil by the time football resumes. But Kieran has excelled on lower-league loans at Morecambe, Macclesfield and Burton Albion, and we wouldn’t be surprised if a Championship team took a punt on him next season – meaning he’ll be a more than able deputy in years to come. 

Defenders

Shane Duffy – 30 (1/1/92) 

We reckon the armband will be Duffy’s in two years time, and that he’ll continue to be the bedrock of the Irish defence. Little justification is needed for his place in the squad – we think he’ll run through walls if Stephen Kenny asks him to. 

John Egan – 29 (20/10/92)

We were also shocked to learn that John Egan’s going to be nearing 30 by the time the World Cup rolls around. With his Sheffield United excelling so far in the Premier League, John is the exact kind of ball-playing centre-half we imagine will excel under Kenny’s tutelage, and he’ll probably provide a perfect foil for Shane Duffy at this tournament. 

Dara O’Shea – 23 (4/3/99) 

Unbeknownst to most fans of Irish football outside his U21 following, Dara has been turning up trees after nailing a place in the West Brom starting XI since the turn of the year. With the Baggies sitting comfortably in an automatic promotion spot, he could with a bit of luck be a starting player in a Premier League side by the end of this year, likely doing his international career wonders. 

Derrick Williams – 29 (17/1/93) 

While a host of promising young Irish defenders are clamouring for inclusion in this squad (Lee O’Connor, Conor Masterson and Tyreke Wilson all come to mind), Williams should be on the plane for his versatility and his comfort across the left side of his defence. He’ll be well placed to deputise at either LB or LCB should he be required. 

Enda Stevens – 32 (9/7/90)

Enda is another Irish defender you may be surprised to learn is getting on a bit, but we think he’ll still be fit and flying for a World Cup in two years’ time. He’s been a revelation in the Premier League this season and we think the attacking football Ireland are forecasted to play under Stephen Kenny will suit him down to the ground. 

Matt Doherty – 30 (16/1/92) 

Should be Ireland’s starting RB by the time Qatar rolls around. He’s gone from strength to strength in Wolves’ ascent to the upper echelons of the Premier League and like Stevens, his brand of direct attacking football will work wonders under Kenny. 

Seamus Coleman – 34 (11/10/88) 

Our beloved skipper will be nearing the twilight of his career in a few years time, but we think he’ll still have a part to play in our quest for World Cup glory in the Middle East. His guile and guidance will be vital in the dressing room, and with tournament football necessitating fresh legs and cool heads, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him making an impact in the green jersey when we need him most. 

Midfielders

Jayson Molumby – 23 (6/8/99) 

While Troy Parrott and Adam Idah are more high-profile Irish starlets, we over at COYBIG can think of no Irish prospect more exciting than Jayson Molumby. Anyone who’s seen him play under Kenny for the U21’s knows that he’s a midfielder who, while never one to shirk a tackle, is capable of dictating a game from the centre of the park. We imagine he’ll be the lynchpin of our side in Qatar. 

Josh Cullen – 26 (7/4/96)

Cullen is another young midfielder capable of running the game from midfield. He probably should have started ahead of Glenn Whelan in certain games throughout the campaign, but we think he’ll be in or around the starting XI under Kenny. A tidy passer who isn’t afraid to play the ball forward, he could excel. 

Conor Coventry – 23 (25/3/00)

The first 00’s player in the squad and I’m not gonna lie, that hurts my head a little. Anyway, Coventry has excelled alongside Molumby throughout our U21 campaign and is another starlet bound for the World Cup – hopefully, he’ll be able to break through at West Ham. He’s elgible to play for England so if he breaks through too soon, he might need to prepare for a thousand Declan Rice-sharpened daggers from Irish fans until he plays a competitive international for us.  

Dublin , Ireland – 10 October 2019; Conor Coventry of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA European U21 Championship Qualifier Group 1 match between Republic of Ireland and Italy at Tallaght Stadium in Tallaght, Dublin. (Photo By Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

James McCarthy – 32 (12/11/90)

James McCarthy is an Irish footballing enigma. Although he’s played for us for a decade, he’s only accumulated 41 caps, the last of those coming at Euro 2016. Still, given his form in the months before the lockdown, he seemed a shoe-in for the squad vs Slovakia, and we can only assume he’ll similarly warrant inclusion for the World Cup campaign. With Glenn Whelan’s international career presumably coming to an end in this new era, Ireland could really benefit from another experienced head in the dressing room, and so unless fate yet again conspires to prevent it, James McCarthy will be jetting off to another international tournament with us. 

Conor Hourihane – 31 (2/1/91) 

Hourihane was hit and miss under Mick McCarthy. He scored the winner vs Georgia, showed he had an eye for a pass at times, and proved himself handy at self pieces – but he never really excelled. With Will Smallbone, Gavin Kilkenny and Luca Connell all waiting in the wings, he needs to establish his international credentials sooner rather than later – another pearler of a free kick would do the trick. That wand of a left foot could serve us well. 

Republic of Ireland’s Conor Hourihane celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group D match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

Jeff Hendrick – 30 (31/1/92) 

Another hit and miss Irish midfielder. Hendrick has shown flashes of his doubtless potential as a ball-playing midfielder, but has never really gotten going in an Irish jersey. With Kenny set to give him a license to play ball, the stage is his – if he can seize his chance he could be a magnificent attacking force from the centre of midfield. Then again, he might not. 

Alan Browne – 27 (15/4/95)

Alan Browne throughout his international career to date has largely been a victim of circumstance. He’s an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal looking to start regularly for Ireland – the odds have been stacked against him. As he approaches his prime years, with management that should suit his game down to the ground at international level, we might finally see the best of Browne in a green jersey. Here’s hoping. 

Attackers

Robbie Brady – 30 (14/1/92) 

Has he got another big tournament in him? Robbie was the hero of Euro 2016, scoring two massive goals vs France & Italy and generally bossing it as we reached the last 16. Since then, he’s drifted – largely due to injury and difficulties breaking back into the Burnley XI rather than any misstep in a green jersey. Although he’s mostly played on the flanks to date, Robbie could yet prove to be adept as a #10 in a 4-2-3-1; Kenny has spoken about playing this formation and he’ll be looking for someone with an eye for a pass and an eye for goal. Watch this space. 

Callum O’Dowda – 27 (23/4/1995) 

Stephen Kenny’s time with both Dundalk and the U21’s showed his fondness for a winger that can run at defences. O’Dowda is one of those. Another that will benefit from permission to take risks, the best is yet to come for the Bristol winger – if he can kick on and finally make an impact at international level. 

Adam Idah – 21 (11.2.01) 

David McGoldrick’s natural successor. Although he burst onto the scene with an FA Cup hattrick for Norwich in January, his time with Kenny in the U21s allowed him to showcase his adeptness at holding the ball up – a trait that could prove useful with the aforementioned midfielders. Wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting in Qatar, especially if he kicks on at Norwich following their probable relegation (unless relegation is cancelled this season. Who knows honestly).

Callum Robinson – 27 (2/2/95) 

Capable of playing out wide on either flank or as a #9, Robbo’s versatility will serve Kenny well, given he’s outlined his preference for either 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Yet to score in a competitive international, but time is on his side. 

Aaron Connolly – 22 (28/1/00)

After bursting onto the scene sensationally with two goals vs Tottenham, Aaron Connolly has found the going a little tougher. But we’re backing him to kick on next season and nail down a spot on the left wing for the Boys in Green – partly because he’s proven to be lethal cutting inside on his right foot, and partly because Stephen Kenny developed him to be a key player during his U21 tenure. 

Troy Parrott – 20 (4/2/02)

Bit of a wildcard one, this. It doesn’t seem like Troy is set to get much gametime under Jose Mourinho at Spurs, and at 20 will still be quite young to be sent out on loan at a decent level. He arguably isn’t necessary in this squad either, with Connolly, Robinson and Idah all capable of playing his favoured CF role. But the lad has magic in his boots. There’s every chance that even without exposure to senior football – which isn’t a given – Kenny will place his trust in a young man many view to be a generational talent. Young Player of the Tournament, anyone? 

That’s what we came up with! Feel free to let us know where we went wrong – and check us out on Instagram and Reddit! (Links below!)

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