Five key players for Ireland during Euro 2020 qualifying

The Republic of Ireland kicked off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with wins over Gibraltar and Georgia but there are much tougher tests to come.

Mick McCarthy, in his second spell in charge, is well aware of the threat posed by Denmark and Switzerland who are the higher seeds in Group D and are shorter odds to qualify with

However, there were plenty of reasons for Irish supporters to be optimistic with six points on the board and a number of players emerged as important components in McCarthy’s system.

Darren Randolph – Goalkeeper

Recently selected in the Championship Team of the Season, Darren Randolph has carried his super form for Middlesbrough into the international fold. He produced a stunning save to keep the score at 0-0 against Gibraltar and also had a hand in the winning goal.

The 31-year-old Bray native has 35 caps to his name since debuting in 2011 and will always be fondly remembered for providing the assist when Shane Long scored the only goal to beat Germany in 2015.

Aside from Keiren Westwood, there is very little experience in the Irish goalkeeping pool so Randolph will be expected to lead by example.

Seamus Coleman – Right back

There has been plenty of debate about whether Seamus Coleman would keep his spot at right back or be shifted elsewhere to accommodate Matt Doherty who has had a brilliant Premier League season with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

However, Coleman remains the captain and one of the first names on the team sheet, provided he stays fit. The 30-year-old missed the best part of a year due to a fractured leg sustained in March 2017 and it took him some time to get up to the pace of top-level football.

With more than 50 international caps, Coleman’s experience will be vital to the next generation coming through.

Conor Hourihane – Midfielder

The Aston Villa man only made his debut two years ago at the age of 26 but his form at club level has seen him become a regular in the Republic of Ireland squad.

A danger from set pieces, Hourihane curled home a wonderful free kick for the only goal of the game against Georgia at the Aviva Stadium. In the process he made a few people reconsider who they should back to qualify for the finals via

Mick McCarthy, who always admired Hourihane at club level, has lots of options at his disposal in the middle of the park but the Cork native’s passing range means he’s currently towards the top of the pecking order.

Glenn Whelan – Midfielder

Republic of Ireland fans thought that they had bid farewell to Glenn Whelan when he played a 36-minute cameo against Northern Ireland last year. After 85 caps, the midfielder looked to bowing out of international football.

However, Mick McCarthy had other ideas and recalled the 35-year-old to his squad. Whelan started against Georgia and it was like he was never away.

At this stage of his career we shouldn’t expect Whelan to play two internationals in a week, but he will be a player that the manager knows he can call on for tough away games in Copenhagen and Geneva when stability and defensive nous are required in the middle of the park.

David McGoldrick – Striker

Mick McCarthy knows David McGoldrick very well having managed him for a number of years at Ipswich Town.

While far from prolific in front of goal, McGoldrick’s work rate is superb and resulted in him receiving a standing ovation when he was substituted against Georgia.

If Ireland can find a natural goalscorer to pair with the 31-year-old then they’ll massively increase their chances of qualifying for the Euros.

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