Dublin XI vs. The Rest of Ireland XI – Who Comes Out On Top?

You often hear of stories of Ireland players playing Dublin versus the rest of the country in the national teams training camp. Stephen Kenny will have to evaluate all players; so how would the current crop line-out in this scenario. Dublin has been a hotbed for football for a long time consequently producing some of our all-time greats Giles, Brady, Duff and Keane. The other hotbeds such as Cork, Derry, Donegal and Galway have come to the fore in the national team more so lately. While the granny rule has supplemented the squad with enthusiastic players relishing the chance to play international football.

Rest of Ireland XI

Darren Randolph: (Wicklow) has established himself as number one as a result of solid performances for Ireland and Middlesbrough. Thus, he earned himself a move back to West Ham. He will always be remembered for his assist in Shane Long’s memorable goal against Germany. His distribution will need to change in this hopefully more progressive footballing system.

Seamus Coleman: (Donegal) Keeping the captaincy and right back position under new management will be in the forefront of Coleman’s mind. It has been a difficult time for him with critics, especially in Everton’s fanbase bemoaning his selection. Being captain does not suit him either with constant arguments with opposing players and referees occurring more regular than forward runs these days. The injury against Wales and his age catching up on him has seen dramatic decline for both club and country. The saving grace for Coleman is Doherty’s ability to play left back or right midfield might keep Coleman in selection.

Ryan Manning: (Galway) Manning in the left-back position has impressed in his new role with QPR. Not the most elegant of footballers he is more reliant on his stamina and decent left foot. There are several Premier League clubs who are noted as chasing his signature. Can he make the step up or maintain consistent performances in the championship? Only time will tell.

Shane Duffy: (Derry) The towering centre-half has been a pivotal figure for this Irish side in recent campaigns. His threat at set-pieces as one of few attacking outlets for McCarthy and O’Neills reigns signifies the importance of Duffy. Brighton’s decision to drop him for a more assured passer is definitely a minor worry, especially if we going to be bit more expansive under Stephen Kenny.

John Egan: (Cork) An impressive first season with the Blades along with Kenny’s words of confidence earmark him for a starting position. His career is one of trajectory after a leg-break at Sunderland in his teens.  Plaudits for Sheffield United and himself in Wilder’s innovative wing-back system are definitely one of stories of  the 2019/20 Premier League season.

Conor Hourihane: (Cork) Playing in all four divisions in England is quite the story. Aston Villa’s promotion earned him a chance to play at the highest level. His cultured left-foot has become a major asset for both Villa and Ireland. One of the highlights for Ireland under McCarthy was his goal against Georgia, and the scenes that followed after. Lack of pace and physicality look to be barriers in trying to keep his status as Premiership player intact and a place in the Ireland set-up.

UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying Round Group D, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 26/3/2019Republic of Ireland vs GeorgiaConor Hourihane of Republic of Ireland celebrates scoring the first goal of the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Alan Browne: (Cork) The Preston man has become a big goal threat for The Lillywhites. He hasn’t got a run of games for Ireland yet, so finding his right position is an important mandate for his role in future Ireland squads. Most people would describe his style of play has a robust box to box midfielder, whose ability to score goals is a quality we need in this new side.

James McClean: (Derry) The man has become an iconic figure in Irish Football. No man will outwork him on the football field. He has scored some important goals in previous qualifying campaigns as well. The critics of him in media and through social media bemoan his lack of quality on ball regards his crossing in final third. Stoke fans from my twitter searches will signal that his work rate and aggression win over supporters. He is subjected to relentless abuse every away game over in England, along with vile messages posted on his social media that definitely fuel his fire. Of course, he needs to understand that his actions on his social media, opens him up to disgusting messages of hatred. But if he sticks the ball in the oppositions net for Stephen Kenny’s side, nobody will care what he says on social media.

Ronan Curtis: (Donegal): A Former Derry City player plying his trade in league one so maybe it’s wrong to include him but Stephen Kenny in his press conference’s voiced that league standing wasn’t important. His thirteen goals for Portsmouth demonstrate that a step up in division should be on the cards. Usually playing on the left, I feel that he would play comfortably on the right too. His height and athleticism are major assets for a wide man. Hopefully, he can continue to shine for Portsmouth.

Sean Maguire: (Kilkenny). The diminutive striker has been plagued by hamstring injuries. When he was fit, we saw enough ability in Championship games to illustrate his qualities. Firstly, his low centre gravity along with quick burst of pace around the box offer a different option. Hopefully, the ex-Cork City man can play injury free for a while and score consistently to get into the former Dundalk managers thinking.

Adam Idah: (Cork)  A Hattrick in the FA cup brought attention to the wider audience of the  nineteen year old’s exploits. The three goals against Preston offered us a glimpse of finishing which Irish fans will hopefully see him translate into regular first team action. His Under 21 and Toulon performances definitely are positives for a nation crying out for natural goal scorers.

Dublin XI

Gavin Bazunu: (Man City)  Bazunu’s rise from Shamrock Rovers to Manchester City hopefully will lead to his longevity in the game. Only eighteen years old in a position which careers can span into late 30s or longer means he has plenty of time to impress. Keeping grounded and making smart loan moves are important. It was between him or Talbot for the number one spot in this Dublin eleven. From his displays against AIK in the Europa league qualifying rounds, he definitely reiterated his potential and ability with assurance with ball at his feet. Playing several games in League of Ireland could only have benefitted him with the demanding physicality of games.  Due to his youth it’s probably going to be him staying in Manchester City progressing in youth teams for a year or two.

Matt Doherty (Wolves) The wing back position for the midlands club as unearthed the best of Doherty. His level of performances has been consistent in both league and in Europe. Fantasy football fans love the Irishman with his ability to score and assist. His footballing IQ has heightened with Portuguese contingent of arrivals at Molineux. Can he remove Coleman from the team or will he moved elsewhere to accommodate the declining Donegal man? Again, another question that will only be answered over time.

Enda Stevens: (Sheffield United) The Sheffield United man, like Doherty, has been a revelation in the wing-back role. Wilder’s style of play has gained a lot of plaudits and Stevens is at forefront of his philosophy. The Dubliner reacted well to his struggles at Aston Villa to keep progressing. Tactics used by Sheffield United definitely have improved the former Shamrocks Rovers man’s ability with patience in finding overlapping centre halves and midfield runners in the final third. Their will be competition from Manning and Brady, should the latter reposition himself to the backline.

Dara O’Shea: (West Brom) Another graduate from Under 21 side whose career has had an upward curve with game time at high flying West Brom. Loan spells at Exeter helped his development the previous year and with now ten appearances under his belt, highlights the high regard he is held in at West Brom.

Nathan Collins: (Stoke City) The giant centre half was fast tracked into the Stoke team and Under 21 and that can only be a positive. Ireland is well stocked in this position so biding his time before stepping up in senior side might take a while. Twelve appearances this season probably tell you that Stoke City’s poor league form has allowed youth to seize their opportunity amongst struggles.

Jason Knight: (Derby). The Cabinteely man made a name for himself at Derby County this season. Nineteen appearances and four goals are impressive stats for an eighteen-year-old in such a competitive league. Philip Coco and Wayne Rooney’s comments praising the Irishman’s energy, creativity and aggression are positive signs and he is definitely one for the future.

Jeff Hendrick: (Burnley). His failure to nail down a specific starting postition for either Ireland or Burnley clearly tell us his failings in his career. His tremendous performances in Euro 2016 earned him a move to the Barclays Premier League where he showed technical ability, enthusiasm and lastly an engine to get around park. Moments in various campaigns for Ireland demonstrated his quality, but his lack of aggression and purpose has seen him fall by the wayside a bit. Under this new system, which is more concentrated on ball retention, admittedly might suit him more than the direct and physical style of previous managers.

Alan Judge: (Ipswich) He has been so unlucky with injury especially when he was flying high with Brentford, but he continues to keep playing well. Mick McCarthy was a big fan of his, but the new management might not be so keen.  Playing in League One with an Ipswich side which faltered badly in the second half of the season might not put the on radar. The diminutive midfielder always provided energy and at least endeavour to get on the ball whenever he played in the green jersey.

Robbie Brady: (Burnley) Injuries has stopped Brady’s development. His stop-start playing time for the Lancashire club make me wonder how long before he plummets into Championship level. Hourihane’s left foot now on set-pieces mean his contribution with Ireland is not as important as before. Moreover Stephen Kenny has highlighted him as a playmaker so his confidence should be sky-high once international football comes around again.

Jack Byrne: (Shamrock Rovers) League of Ireland has brought out the best in Byrne. His eagerness to get on ball without hesitation to create is a positive sign. Even so failure with Oldham, Wigan and Kilmarnock are blots on his resume and as a result recurring questions of whether he can make step up will persist. Continuing with Shamrock Rovers is the best option for him; playing consistently well while adding more goals will progress his Irish career. 

Troy Parrot: (Tottenham) We all hope Parrot can be the next top goalscorer for Ireland. As a result of Robbie Keane retiring, we have lacked a natural consistent striker. Tottenham’s injury problem upfront led to the outcry from Irish fans to give the young Dubliner an opportunity. Thus, still only eighteen it is a lot to ask him to become a first team regular right now. Clearly his under 21 performance’s for Ireland are positive signs of progression. Overall a positive loan spell at a decent club in the Championship could cement himself in the Ireland squad and even a starting berth in the future.

Kenny’s reign will be one watched with fascination by Irish fans as the have been begging that the playing style changes. Clearly a more positive performance on the pitch regardless of qualifying is forefront of people minds, with very few Irish fans expecting to qualify for the European Championships in 2021. Indeed, we have posed questions such as who would win with these line-ups? Would Dubliners have too much guile and inventiveness?  Would the rest of Ireland have too much aggression and tenacity? It seems we have a good mix of both from all over this island which can only be a positive. In short, the next campaign will be an interesting watch with a lot of young players vying to be included in squad. Who would you include in your line-ups for both teams?


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