Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has named a 25-man squad for next week’s UEFA Euro 2020 play-off semi-final versus Slovakia as well as Nations League games against Wales and Finland.
The main talking point surrounding the squad is probably the inclusion of Shamrock Rovers playmaker Jack Byrne, with the Dubliner having not been in Kenny’s first Ireland senior squad last month.
Speaking on his decision to include the 24-year-old in his squad for next week’s crucial match in Bratislava, Kenny said:
Jack played well against AC Milan and followed that up with two goals and a man-of-the-match performance at the weekend (versus Dundalk).
He’s a very talented player with a good range of passing so he is in the squad on merit.
He’s different and has that range of passing which is very interesting and very effective and obviously he has good vision.
Elsewhere, Blackburn Rovers defender Derrick Williams has been included in the squad having not featured in the squad for last month’s double header versus Bulgaria and Finland. The 27-year-old has three senior caps for Ireland and has scored once, that being the equalizer in the 3-1 win over New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium last November.
Kenny faces a selection dilemma at right-back with captain Séamus Coleman’s form at Everton likely to put him in contention for a recall ahead of Matt Doherty.
The manager praised Doherty for having his best game so far for new club Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend in a 1-1 draw versus Newcastle United, while noting that both players can be accommodated in the same team.
“These are good problems to have, that we want to exist. We don’t have them in every position. We have several players playing in the first-team which is different to the last time when they were in pre-season basically,” said Kenny.
In attack, Troy Parrott misses out through injury. With that being said it might be surprising that there is still no room for Southampton’s Michael Obafemi in the squad. The 20-year-old made 21 Premier League appearances last season, scoring three goals. While the Dubliner has only featured in one (of three) Premier League games for Southampton this season, he is still one of Ireland’s better performing attackers.
There is also something of a surprise in the goalkeeping selection. Darren Randolph and Mark Travers have been selected as expected. However, the surprise is the inclusion of 21-year-old novice Caoimhín Kelleher. He has done well at Liverpool but is still very much third choice goalkeeper at Anfield and his only competitive appearances for the club are three EFL Cup matches which he played last season.
For this observer, Gavin Bazunu would have been an interesting choice to have been selected as a back-up goalkeeper. The 18-year-old has played five games for Rochdale this season, including playing in all three of the club’s league matches so far this term.
Ireland play Slovakia in Bratislava on Thursday week in a UEFA Euro 2020 play-off semi-final. The winner of that match will face either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland away from home on November 12th for the right to play in the European Championships (with two of their games in Dublin) next summer.
The Ireland squad will meet in Dublin this coming Sunday and train at Abbotstown on Monday before flying to Slovakia on Tuesday.
Stephen Kenny’s team will also play Nations League matches against Wales and Finland on October 11th and October 14th respectively.
Republic of Ireland squad v Slovakia, Wales and Finland
Darren Randolph, Caoimhin Kelleher, Mark Travers.Defenders
Séamus Coleman, Matt Doherty, Enda Stevens, Darragh Lenihan, Shane Duffy, John Egan, Derrick Williams.
Conor Hourihane, James McCarthy, Harry Arter, Jeff Hendrick, Alan Browne, Jayson Molumby, Jack Byrne, Robbie Brady.
Callum Robinson, Callum O’Dowda, James McClean, Aaron Connolly, David McGoldrick, Adam Idah, Shane Long.