After the opening round of fixtures in the second Mick McCarthy era garnered six points out of a possible six, where does that leave the current state of the players that featured? Lets take a look at who impressed and who didn’t over the 180 minutes.
1. Darren Randolph
No Randolph, no six points. Twice Randolph was called into unexpected action and the Middlesbrough ‘keeper delivered on both occasions, making an incredible one handed reactionary save against Gibraltar and denying Georgia an equalizer from close range on Tuesday night.
Randolph is pound-for-pound Ireland’s best player, is about to be the Championship goalkeeper of the year and is very much Premier League standard.
2. Conor Hourihane
A player whose reputation has been greatest enhanced this week. The Corkman had a strong shift in awful conditions on ‘the rock’, followed by a terrific performance against Georgia and a superb free-kick to grab all three points.
One of Ireland’s best performing players this season, it’d be great to see him make the step up to the top flight.
3. David McGoldrick
32-years-old and leading the line to superb affect. Ireland’s answer to Roberto Firmino. The way he worked his arse off but couldn’t find the net despite a couple of good efforts. His turn that drew the foul which led to Hourihane’s free-kick was very clever.
Well deserved the standing ovation – the Sheffield United striker is now Ireland’s number nine until one of Shane Long, Michael Obafemi or Seani Maguire can do something to usurp him.
4. Jeff Hendrick
There was the Hendrick we all know and love. Not since 2016 has he played to this level, but it’s no coincidence that his best performance came in conjunction with two midfield players sitting deeper to take care of the dirty work behind him.
5. Richard Keogh
Two solid performances from the Derby defender, who, at 32 years of age, has solidified his starting berth alongside Shane Duffy. That’s unlikely to change for the course of the qualification stage.
6. Glenn Whelan
The “ah you wha’s” were quite audible around the country when it was announced that Glenn Whelan had been given a starting role against Georgia, having ‘retired’ under Martin O’Neill.
He’s now undroppable after a super performance and seems to have created a really good midfield trident alongside Hourihane and Hendrick.
7. Enda Stevens
No complaints for the full back, making his fifth and sixth appearances in the green shirt. Due to lack of competition at the position, he’s bedded it down for the remainder of the qualification.
8. Seamus Coleman
The narrative was set early on after a disappointing game against Gibraltar in which himself and Matt Doherty struggled to blend. He was much better against Georgia however – and it was remarkable to see his attacking threat finally put to use in the green shirt.
Although you’d wonder would Doherty have been more dangerous in the final third had he got the nod over the Everton player.
9. Shane Duffy
A player whose best performances come when Ireland are under the cosh, so he didn’t seem overly comfortable in the first fixture. Regardless, he’s still our most dangerous goalscoring threat from set pieces.
10. Robbie Brady
The Burnley man delivered a hard-working performance against Georgia, but not his best game in the green shirt. With his set piece ability devalued with Hourihane on the pitch, Brady may become the odd man out at times.
11. James McClean
Poor against Gibraltar, but there’s no denying his commitment. His stranglehold on a starting berth could loosen as the games go on though and yellow cards accumulate, especially if McCarthy can find someone to play on the left.
12. Matt Doherty
An underwhelming start under Mick. Our best performing Premier League player looked lost on the windswept rock, but there’s no doubting he would have stood out more against Georgia. He could struggle to start against the Swiss and the Danes.
13. Seani Maguire
The conditions in the first fixture didn’t suit his game. He would have enjoyed the space afforded by Georgia, but another fruitless international period for the Preston striker. He needs an international goal badly.
14. Harry Arter
Twenty minutes against Gibraltar. His starting berth has disappeared, which is probably for the best given his drop in form for club and country. Yet he remains a decent option off the bench and a player who won’t shy away from hard work.
15. Aiden O’Brien
Twenty minutes against Georgia. It was telling that he was given the nod over Maguire.
Who missed out?
We were a bit disappointed Jack Byrne didn’t get a few minutes in either game, especially with the unused substitutions. Shane Long will break into this list next time out, and – hopefully – Michael Obafemi.