Welcome to the very first publication of BPF’s hastily-named, scientifically-approved, KPMG-independently-observed Ireland International Player Power Rankings (or IIPPR for short). The goal of this is to rank each and every Irish international after each set of international games and intermittently throughout the rest of the campaign.
The ranking is based on three factors: 1) International form – form in an international shirt trumps all. 2) Club form – this will most come into effect during downtime in international games, but will be offset by 3) Martin O’Neill’s preferences – scoring hat-tricks every week but never in favour with O’Neill? Unlucky my friend.
This first ranking has favoured players who were in the most recent squads against Georgia and Moldova, to give us an initial starting point. So if your favourite in-form League of Ireland player is behind some plucky League 1 player then send your grievances elsewhere. Without further ado…
1 James McClean
The newly ordained golden boy of Irish soccer gets the honour of topping this list in its first release. His club form may be erratic but there’s no doubting his commitment to the cause. Martin O’Neill loves him. The fans love him. Sure he’s prone to a reckless tackle and a yellow card. But he loves his country and that’s all that matters. His match winning goals against Moldova, which put Ireland joint-top of the group, firmly root him at #1. It may take some doing to knock him off his perch.
2 Seamus Coleman
Is there a more lovable captain in our country’s history? You just want to pinch his exquisitely structured cheeks. You know as soon as he appears on the post-match interview with Tony O’Donoghue that mothers around the country are in unison of “he seems like a lovely lad”. He’s one of the best all-round full backs in Europe. O’Neills decision to give him the armband was smart, a master of unfussed consistency with zero controversy and a leader his teammates will heed.
3 Robbie Brady
An unfortunate injury against Georgia meant we didn’t see Brady unleashed against Moldova. It’s likely we would have made slightly lighter work of them with him on the field. It was disappointing not to see him get a Premier League move in the summer but, much like McClean, Brady is one you would expect to play above his club form when in green. His recent flurry of important goals has added an interesting dynamic to his position within the squad. He could be our most important player over the next two or three campaigns.
4 Shane Long
It took longer than it should have, but in a Robbie Keane-less world Shane Long has finally cemented his spot as Ireland’s starting striker. But unlike Keane he’s not scoring enough vital qualifying goals just yet. His opener against Moldova was clinical and we need him to keep that up. Long is approaching 30, his club form has been the best it’s ever been in his career the past 18 months, we need to see the best of Long during this campaign.
5 Jeff Hendrick
The underrated, but equally not so underrated, Jeff Hendrick. Has he felt the wrath of Dunphy, Brady et al yet? I don’t think so and that’s a good thing. His Burnley club-record move in the summer proved his worth as at least a mid-to-low Premier League level midfielder and for Ireland that’s just fine. He’s been decent so far at his new club and playing at such a competitive level will help all parties. He’s going to be our starting midfielder for the next handful of years at least so we need him competing at the highest level. Could have done better against Georgia, mind.
6 Wes Hoolahan
You initially might be outraged that the dancing wizard with the touch of an angel lies only in #6 in this scientifically-approved list. But your outrage is misplaced. First, consider the five who precede him and try and argue that they don’t deserve such lofty rankings. Second, Martin O’Neill won’t start him in every game. He didn’t even come off the bench against Georgia in the Aviva. He sublimely set up the first in Moldova but had a role in the equaliser. At 34, has more chance of sliding down the ladder rather than climbing after we’ve played Austria next month.
7 Jon Walters
Walters has arguably been our most consistent Premier League international of the past three or four years. The unfashionable lump of a forward has fashioned himself a pivotal role within the Ireland ranks. If he’s fit he starts, end of. He was fantastic away to Moldova when Shane Long went off. He’s averaging only two goals a qualifying campaign, we need more output from this side of his game. Even at 33 he’s not showing any signs of slowing down or being phased out of the international fold. He’s possibly our current Richard Dunne figure within the team.
8 Ciaran Clark
At 27, Clark is finally etched into the starting centre back role for Ireland. It’s been a long time coming, but not a moment too late with recent retirements and John O’Shea coming towards the end of his career. His move to Newcastle was hugely important. Promotion into the Premier League would be a major feather in his cap. As the months role forward he has a genuine chance of climbing this list. Was partly at fault for Moldova’s goal.
9 Darren Randolph
Played himself into the starting berth ahead of Euro 2016. A calm and dominating figure in the goals, there’s been little we can fault Randolph for since establishing himself in the side. The only black mark against his name is his lack of regular club action. If things continue the way they are at West Ham that could change very soon. They gave him a new contract so they clearly have faith in him. Despite that, he’s unlikely to be played out of his current role so should be a top ten regular for the remainder of the campaign.
10 Shane Duffy
Another centre half who is coming of age internationally, after years of perhaps misplaced hype. He’s also got himself an important move and is in the Championship promotion discussion. Our two starting centre backs are playing at the top of the Championship and that’s just fine. Duffy is 24 so has plenty of room for growth. Got badly caught out for the Moldovan goal, however.
11 Glenn Whelan
Glenn Whelan’s Premier League appearance stats since 2008 read: 26, 33, 29, 30, 32, 32, 28, 37. There’s one of the reasons why, despite whatever “the lads in the studio” say, Whelan is an ever-present in the Ireland midfield. Unspectacular, but at this level you can’t argue with top level consistency.
12 James McCarthy
Questionable club form lead to questions marks over his position in the Ireland starting eleven but that was unfounded as he started against both Georgia and Moldova, and was adequately average in both. He’s looking over his shoulder at Harry Arter and Eunan O’Kane.
13 Callum O’Dowda
A lofty ranking for the youngster, no doubt, but he came on against Moldova and looked like he could play ball. He got a move to Bristol City in the summer which could be a stepping stone to bigger and better things. A very positive sign that O’Neill favoured him as the first off the bench in Moldova.
14 Eunan O’Kane
A late cameo on Sunday evening for his fifth cap and first competitive appearance. When everyone is fit and available he probably doesn’t see the field, but is playing to a decent level at Leeds and is deserving of a call up. Should see more minutes during the campaign.
15 Stephen Ward
Ward has been reborn this season with Burnley after a lull where he couldn’t start a game even if he played for free. A solid left back option, our only one unless Brady is islanded back there.
16 David Meyler
Meyler is somehow earning a living as a Premier League starter, helped in part by Hull’s squad issues. Offers little bar tenaciousness and a willingness to put himself about. Despite limitations, would be the first to start in the event of a crisis. His versatility means he’s a mainstay in the squad.
17 John O’Shea
116 caps, a beautiful goal against Germany, John has been an honourable servant to the cause over the past 15 years. But some good things have to come to an end and unfortunately for O’Shea, is nearing the end of his international tenure. Will likely see out the rest of the campaign in a back up role.
18 Harry Arter
Yet to play a competitive game for Ireland, some Irish fans nearly fecked this up for everyone thanks to their jumping to conclusions after a report said he was considering switching allegiance to England. Yet to play a competitive game, and still the knocking most hard on the door. He could potentially start in Austria if he’s fit. Of all on the periphery of the starting team, Arter is most likely to play himself into the squad.
19 Richard Keogh
Has done everything we could have asked for in the last campaign, ultimately starting in the win against Italy and the loss against France. A decent if unspectacular option. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he got game time before the end of this campaign.
20 Cyrus Christie
Christie has shown to be a fine option in backup to Seamus Coleman. Good getting forward, albeit not as solid defensively as his captain. His game time will be limited to how upright Seamus Coleman can stay and at the moment it’s not looking good for Cyrus.
21 Daryl Murphy
An option from the bench with a fair chance of starting if ever needs be. Only just scored his first international goal and it was an important one against Serbia. His move to Newcastle was odd, one would wonder if he’s going to see much game time. At 33 years old he’s better positioned than 33 year old Kevin Doyle.
22 Aiden McGeady
Has amassed 85 caps for Ireland, thankful that the options around him are as equally limited. Didn’t see the field last week and is unlikely to start when everyone is fit and ready. Noted he has had some stormers in an Ireland shirt, those type of performances are now rare at both club and country
23 Stephen Gleeson
An ever-present midfield player for his clubs over the past seven years, but doesn’t have the quality to break into the international setup. His call up last week earns him a quite lofty ranking ahead of some more deserving candidates. Hasn’t played for Ireland since 2007.
24 Alex Pearce
Is now playing regularly for Bristol City, but is way down the defensive shuffle for Ireland. Like Gleeson, is looked fondly upon for his recent callup but is very unlikely to see much game time and will likely slide after Austria.
25 Conor Hourihane
The Bandon man is yet to play for the senior team, but is certainly knocking on the door. A goal threat from midfield, of the Alan Judge mould, is benefitted by his more recent call-up. It’d be great to see him get some minutes during the campaign but is more likely to be blooded in a friendly.
26 Stephen Quinn
The Reading player is fading as an option for Ireland and is unlikely to see much action, if even get called up in this campaign.
27 Kieren Westwood
Some might argue Westwood is our most talented ‘keeper. He’s definitely our most in form thanks to his club level with Sheffield Wednesday, where he has been showered with awards for his goalkeeping exploits. It would take something for him to oust Randolph, but completely not impossible. Our goalkeeping situation isn’t looking too bad post-Given part two.
28 Alan Judge
An unfortunate injury brought end to seeing Judge in France, but the fact that he undoubtedly would have been on the plane otherwise allows him such a ranking in our pilot ladder. Hopefully we’ll see him fit and flying for Brentford and Ireland soon, because he’s talented enough.
29 Chris Forrester
Unlike Judge et al, Forrester has age on his side. The former St Pats and Bohs prodigy is cutting it just fine over in Peterbrough and is even finding himself on the highlight reel. Will surely make his debut before the campaign is out. Whether that’s competitively is another question.
30 Daryl Horgan
He nearly got cutoff to the best of the rest section, but I had a word. His recent form has been too good and Martin O’Neill’s comment – that he’d have called him up were it not for Dundalk’s challenging calender – is very positive. It would be a huge victory for League of Ireland and Dundalk if he got a call up for Austria. If he does – and plays – he’ll shoot up the ladder.
The best of the rest…
31 Marc Wilson
32 Jonny Hayes
33 Adam Rooney
34 Danny Rogers
35 Ian Lawlor
36 Paul McShane
37 Jack Byrne
38 Eoghan O’Connell
39 Darron Gibson
40 Rob Elliot
41 David McGoldrick
42 Anthony Stokes
43 Kevin Toner
44 Anthony Pilkington
45 Kevin Doyle
46 Paul Green
47 Sean Maguire
48 Gary Rogers
49 Darragh Lenihan
50 Simon Cox