In what has been Ireland’s worst performance in an international tournament in forty years there will be a load of blogs, articles and comments blasting Trap, the players, the system and the FAI. But rather than go down the easy route and joining in the chorus of negativity I have decided to look forward with a bit of positivity. I am going to take a leaf out of Eamon Dunphy’s book and take this opportunity to look forward to the future. We have a chance now to issue in a new exciting generation of Irish players.
So here are Irish players that I believe will be fighting for a place on the Ireland team of the future.
In goals is one position where we are not overburdened with choice. And although Poland/ Ukraine was not his greatest hour I do believe that Shay Given still has something to offer Ireland. Shay may be getting on but he still a top class goalkeeper and can help ease the handover of the gloves to the next man. Kieran Westwood looks likely to be that man if he can get out of the shadow Simon Mignolet at Sunderland. David Forde of Millwall is looking likely to be the second choice but will be pushed hard by Portsmouth’s Stephen Henderson. Either of these three could be the number one for Ireland so it will be interesting to see who will step forward.
Across the back there are a number of players who I could see filling roles. Marc Tierney for Norwich had an excellent season last year and it will be good to see how he gets on this year. Tierney plays left back but has been known to fill in at centre back. Greg Cunningham, Ciaran Clarke, and Shane Duffy have been talked up for a few years now so this upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign will be a great opportunity to blood all three. From the current squad players like Sean st Ledger, Kevin Foley and John O’Shea would offer experience and good cover if needed. Marc Wilson who seemed to fall foul of the present management is a decent player who is a great option at left back and should be integrated into the squad.
Midfield is an area where Ireland have had problems in the past but looking closer there are some seriously exciting and talented players who would be more than at home on the international stage. Dunphy mentioned two other Norwich players Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington as potential stars for Ireland in the future. The stats this year for the much lauded rising star of Irish football, James McClean, were that he played twenty three premier league games scored six goals and set up five. Pilkington played thirty games, scored eight goals and set up one. Hoolahan played thirty three games, scored five goals and had eight assists. The three mentioned players were far and beyond the best performing Irish players in the Premier League last year. With established players such as Keith Fahy, Darren Gibson and Aidan McGeady coupled with real potential in youngsters such as David Meyler, Jamie McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and Manchester United’s rising star, Robbie Brady; Ireland actually have seriously top-class players who will be competing for places. I would still love to add Stephen Ireland’s name to this list simply because he is a quality player.
Up front Jon Walters has shown that he has a lot to offer. Long, Doyle and Cox have still got a lot of goals in them and would offer significant competition for places. If Leon Best could shake off his injury problems then he could be a real presence for us up front as he is the type of skilled target man that Ireland has missed for numerous years.
The future is exciting. We do have a generation of players coming through to the senior squad that could offer us entertainment and memories for years to come. Qualification for major tournaments is a realistic achievement. These lads I have mentioned are skilful, exciting, energetic and eager. I can honestly say that I believe we are on the cusp of what might be a very significant time for Irish football.
The question to be asked now is in what direction are we going to head.