With Ireland set to take on Belgium and Lithuania in Dublin for the March international window it presents Stephen Kenny a chance to try out different players ahead of the Nations League in June and the European Championship Qualifiers next year.
Kenny may prefer the tried and trusted against the Belgians, but for the Lithuania game he might prefer to experiment and give new or fringe players a chance to shine, especially with so many players involved at club level and performing well across the Championship and beyond.
Although many players have debuted since his arrival as senior manager, a number of players are competing for places and the depth seems to be increasing by the week – and March could be an opportunity to build on that and introduce fresh faces ahead of the Nations League campaign.
Mark Travers | Bournemouth
Its been nearly twelve months since Mark Travers’s nightmare against Serbia and since then he has nailed down the number one jersey with the Cherries since the start of the season. Scott Parker has placed his faith in the 22-year-old and he has certainly not let him down starting 26 games in the Championship this season and keeping 11 clean sheets.
With Ireland’s goalkeeping options looking very healthy at present with young starlet Gavin Bazunu and Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher its going to be a tough task for Mark Travers to break into the Ireland team. However, there is a case to be made that the Maynooth man is playing more often than Caoimhin Kelleher and is playing at a higher level than Gavin Bazunu, this case could be further strengthened if Bournemouth were to gain promotion to the Premier League. It’s likely we could see Mark Travers in some capacity during March.
Festy Ebosele | Derby County
Despite Derby County’s sorrows this season, a shining light for the Rams has been Festy Ebosele. The man from Enniscorthy has brought supporters at Pride Park to the edge of their seats with the youngster’s explosiveness and trickery down the right flank. His natural position is as an attacking right back but Derby manager Wayne Rooney has preferred to use him further up the pitch playing as a right winger.
The former Bray Wanderers academy player has made 18 appearances in the Championship this season chipping in with a goal and an assist. With his contract up at the end of the season its looks very probable that Festy Ebosele will leave Derby with Bundesliga clubs Wolfsberg, Mainz and Freiburg all reportedly interested in securing his signature this month.
Ebosele has featured for Jim Crawford’s U21 team on two occasions and the 19-year-old looks ready to make the step up to the senior side and there is a strong chance that he could feature for his country in March.
Will Keane | Wigan Athletic
Will Keane has been in the form of his career this season for Wigan in their promotion push from League One, with the forward netting on 14 occasions in 24 appearances. The English born Irish man is very impressive with the ball at his feet and at getting players into the game using his large frame to hold up the ball.
With his powerful aerial ability the 29-year-old has a presence in the box to be a poacher. However Keane has mainly played behind the striker for Wigan this season which makes his goal tally even more impressive.
The Manchester United youth product has already been capped for Ireland once, coming on as a late sub at home against Portugal in November playing a key role in recovering the ball for Matt Doherty’s last minute goal which was controversially disallowed due to Keane’s tame push on Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
At 29-years-old, Keane is certainly not one for the long term future but he can certainly play a huge role in the next few years for Ireland. A first start for Will Keane in March is definitely deserved due to his fine form.
Zak Elbouzedi | AIK
Since joining Swedish side AIK in the summer from Lincoln City, Zak Elbouzedi has thrived in the Allsvenskan. Its clear to see that the 23-year-old suits a less physical league where he can show off his technical ability. Since joining the Swedish outfit the former Waterford man has helped his team to a second place finish only losing out on the title to Malmo on goal difference in the 2021 season.
Ireland boss Stephen Kenny will definitely be aware of Zak Elbouzedi as he captained his Ireland U21 team on a number of occasions. The Dubliner can certainly be of use to Ireland as he is capable of playing anywhere across the front three. If the former Lincoln man can keep up his impressive form and help AIK in their title push for the 2022 season, he can definitely be a viable option for Ireland in the coming years. A first cap in March is certainly not out of the question.
Jimmy Dunne | QPR
Jimmy Dunne has definitely gone under the radar since joining Queens Park Rangers in the summer after running down his contract at Burnley where he wasn’t given a fair chance. The 24-year-old is a good example of the modern centre-back who is comfortable on the ball, good in the air, and athletic. The former Manchester United youth product has been ever present for QPR this season, making 20 appearances as they sit 4th in the Championship and look to push for promotion into the Premier League.
The Drogheda man has lined out for the U21s on two occasions in 2018. With centre-back being one of Ireland’s strongest positions its going to be hard for Jimmy Dunne to break into the team, nevertheless the QPR man deserves to make his first appearance for the senior team as a result of his impressive form.