With just over three months to go until these huge play off fixtures kick off, there is still plenty of time for players to make a name for themselves and force their way into Mick McCarthy’s plans. I’ve decided to leave the majority of the Ireland U21 stars with Stephen Kenny as there’s not much point in them sitting on the bench for these pivotal matches. I also haven’t included any League of Ireland players as I’m not quite sure what the new season will bring! But for now, let’s take a look at my 24 man squad that I’d like to see on March 26th and hopefully March 31st.
Goalkeeper: Darren Randolph is guaranteed to be in there with his outstanding performances for both club and country over the past few years. Mark Travers who hasn’t seen too much action this season should supply some back up, he’s still a young keeper learning the game but I think everyone can see the potential in him. I’d go for Kieran O Hara as well who’s been getting regular game time at Burton Albion this season. Some might say Kieran Westwood is worthy of a place but at 35 years of age, there’s no real point having him in the squad anymore.
Defenders: Moving onto to our strongpoint which is the defence, John Egan, Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark have got to be in there as they continue to perform at a good level in the Premier League. Picking another centre back isn’t easy, we don’t have many others playing regularly but I’d go with Blackburn’s Darragh Lenihan, who to me, is a bit underrated. He’s solid and really good on the ball and should be talked about more. Full backs wise, Enda Stevens and Matt Doherty, for obvious reasons, will be included. I’d love to see Ryan Manning (who’s linked with a move to West Ham/Wolves) in there as he’s been pretty magnificent for QPR this season. He’d be good to have if god forbid Stevens got injured. Finally, Seamus Coleman, who will be included no matter what. We’ll talk about a starting place for him closer to the games.
Midfielders: There’s plenty of debate to be had for our midfield, does Glenn Whelan get the call? Well it all depends if he finds a new club which you’d assume he will, I’d have him in there, maybe not worthy of a start but a good pro to have around. James McCarthy is back playing premier league football consistently and performing well so I’d bring him back in. Regulars like Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick continue to do well in the top flight as well and there a must have. When you look out wide, McClean is doing well under Michael O Neill, Curtis is shining in League One. Sheffield United’s Callum Robinson could do a job on the right/left also. I’m not quite sure about Robbie Brady though, not playing enough for me so I’d drop him. I’m a big fan of Daryl Horgan and people will think I’m mad but I honestly think his pace could be a deadly threat for us. It’ll never happen under Mick for sure, but I’ve seen him playing in Scotland and it’s probably just the fact he’s not playing in England that holds him back. Other than that, Alan Browne has done well over the last few years for Preston and more recently with Ireland and he should be in. Josh Cullen is a good young and upcoming talent and he’ll just add more defensive midfield cover to this squad.
Forwards: Now this is where it gets exciting, David McGoldrick is pretty much guaranteed a start. Aaron Connolly will hopefully get some minutes. Shane Long should come back in also, given he’s been in fine form for Southampton. The last spot up for grabs is a tough one, it’s between Ireland U21 internationals Michael Obafemi and Adam Idah. I’m going to leave that one open for now as we’ll see which ones playing the more first team football in a few months time, if neither are, a tried and trusted shall come back in.
So there it is, the squad I’d personally pick for the games in March (at the moment), very difficult of course but I wouldn’t say I’m too far off the real thing!