It’s time for the summer edition of BPF’s patented, not at all scientific IIPPR, or Ireland International Player Power Rankings. Last winter everything was on a high – we were scoring goals, Callum Robinson was in the form of his life and we felt we had finally turned a corner. But, as is the modus operandi with the Irish national team, the rankings have changed wildly since then. Michael Obafemi was #50 last time out and Nathan Collins – partially due to a long term injury and as-of-yet not breaking into the Burnley side – was nowhere to be found. So here we are, it’s summer 2022 and this is the state of the national squad.
The ranking is broadly based on three factors: 1) international form – form in the green shirt trumps all, 2) club form – this, often difficult to come by factor, will give some guys the edge over others and 3) Stephen Kenny’s preferences – as we know by now, Kenny’s preference for young up-and-comers over some of the tried and tested figures does play a factor in the rankings.
1 Josh Cullen (up from 4)
A wonderful campaign for the Anderlecht man, who started all games and cemented his role in the middle of Ireland’s midfield for as long as wishes. Some uncertainty ahead at club level with the departure of his manager Vincent Kompany, but there’s no doubting his move to Belgium has elevated his international career. The first name on the teamsheet and making his debut at #1 in our rankings.
2 John Egan (up from 5)
Egan was unlucky to drop to #5 last time, but he’s risen back to #2 this summer and, despite Nathan Collins best efforts, is still the rock at the heart of Ireland’s defence. Looks likely to spend another season in the Championship, but that’s probably his best level – although we remain convinced he’d do a fine job back in the Premier League or in any of the major leagues across Europe.
3 Shane Duffy (No Change)
No change, despite a disappointing end to the club season with Brighton. Last winter he was coming off that fine performance against Portugal and was in favour with Graham Potter. Some mishaps this window, but his ability to be an utter handful in each box continues to be a sight to behold. A move this summer may be on the cards, but otherwise he’s not in too bad of a position at a good Premier League club.
4 Gavin Bazunu (down from 2)
An injury curbed Bazunu’s steady rise this summer, but it’s hard to punish him too much – as good as Kelleher was at times this window, it’s difficult to say Bazunu has lost his place between the sticks. If anything, he may have cemented it further with moments like the Armenian goal not shining Kelleher in a good light. His move to Southampton elevates him to bona-fide Premier League level. He could be #1 on this list next winter.
5 Chiedozie Ogbene (up from 8)
Ogbene is a crowd and manager favourite and although he didn’t have the best of success throughout this window, he is a handful for any international defence. His decision making at times in the final third lets him down and the emergence of Parrott and Obafemi may see a slight tweak in role going forward for Ogbene, perhaps from right wing back where he plays for his club. Coming from further deep to add to an attack and swing in crosses could be his most effective role in this type of Irish setup.
6 Nathan Collins (New Entrant)
There you go, a guaranteed starter as long as he’s upright for the next 10 or 15 years. A superstar and genuine Premier League calibre player. If he doesn’t get a move from Burnley before the summer is out then the bigger clubs are asleep at the wheel.
7 Jason Knight (up from 12)
A notable change in the team setup when he was introduced for the Ukraine game, but the impetus completely changed when he played deeper against Scotland. He has so much to offer and is by far the most creative ball player currently in the team. The trio of himself, Cullen and Molumby really impressed and you’d like to think he gets a move up the chain from Derby this summer.
8 Matt Doherty (down from 6)
An injury at the worst possible time for Doherty, who was just beginning to find his feet under Antonio Conte. A shame also for Ireland, as that form would have been priceless to the system. A good thing for him is nobody has really grasped the right wing back role, although Alan Browne has done enough to give Kenny some food for thought in a backup capacity.
9 Troy Parrott (up from 17)
Parrott was one of the big winners from this camp, with his performances against Scotland and Ukraine. His movement and involvement was much improved from what we’ve seen so far and he forged what could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Michael Obafemi. His next club move is paramount – it’s huge that he builds from a good season with MK Dons and you’d imagine there are teams in the Championship considering the viability of a loan move.
10 Callum Robinson (down from 1)
After a dazzling spell last winter where he netted six times in six games, Robinson’s stock has dropped slightly. He was understandably given the main role in attack against Armenia but struggled to make a difference, while his club form coming into the camp wasn’t outstanding. Still an important player within the team and if he can find continuous club action, he can offer a lot, although he could just as quickly fall down the pecking order over some of the guys that are starting to come through.
11 Seamus Coleman (down from 7)
Perhaps it’s a bit harsh that Coleman has dropped here, but he did miss three of the four games and his starting role seems to be ever so shifting away, as depth appears at right wing back and in the central three positions. Either way, an integral part of the squad who should really be picked until the day he retires.
12 Michael Obafemi (up from 50)
Well, what a rise. Last November when we did the previous list, Obafemi seemed a world away from ever breaking into the senior side. Injuries, zero club form and a supposed grievance between himself and Kenny, it wouldn’t have been crazy to wonder if he’d ever play for Ireland again as long as Kenny is around. Thankfully, fine club form at Swansea turned a corner for Obafemi, to the point where he couldn’t be ignored for this campaign. That performance against Scotland has sealed his status as perennial selection, likely starter – and maybe even the answer to our goalscoring woes.
13 Alan Browne (up from 18)
A really good camp for Browne, who added to his utility within the ranks with his performances at right wing back. May yet be better off in midfield and his goalscoring exploits are very helpful.
14 Jayson Molumby (up from 20)
Molumby kind of drifted away from contention, but has skyrocketed into a potential starting role with his dogged displays against Scotland and Ukraine. Shows a lot of fight and leadership and his permanent switch to West Brom should be great for him, as he finds his feet at club level.
15 James McClean (no change)
McClean has probably emerged as Ireland’s best left wing back after this camp, as he performed better than Stevens. McClean seems to be getting faster and fitter as the years roll by and he’ll be picked as long as he’s upright. Some depth would be nice at the position, however.
16 Caoimhin Kelleher (up from 19)
Great to see Kelleher add four caps to his total this camp and emerge as a very solid consideration for the goalkeeper position, but perhaps didn’t do enough to oust Bazunu yet. He does his best work with the ball at his feet – he makes it look effortless – a loan move at club level may be the next step in his impressive young career.
17 Jeff Hendrick (down from 9)
Hendrick’s struggles against Armenia has resulted in a change of approach in the Ireland midfield. At this point, as long as he’s not involved at club level, his best role is probably coming off the bench, as he’s shown an aversion to being effective against the so-called weaker nations.
18 Dara O’Shea (up from 22)
Injury curtailed most of his season, but he’s only ever been at least very good for Ireland. Will continue to rack up caps and could prove to be a dark horse in strong depth at the centre back position.
19 Enda Stevens (down from 16)
Not a great camp for Stevens, who has been in and out of the squads for reasons usually beyond his control – McClean may have rankled the starting role from him for now.
20 Adam Idah (down from 11)
Another who was impacted by absolutely dreadful injury timing, just as he was beginning to get game time and look really effective for Norwich. Back in the Championship, you’d hope this is finally the year where he can start and score a lot of goals. It’ll be interesting to see how his return shapes Ireland going forward, as Kenny obviously rates him.
21 Conor Hourihane (down from 14)
Out of contract now after his spell at Villa, Hourihane didn’t do a whole pile to shake up the squad this campaign. Still offers a lot from set pieces but may be entering a period where he teeters on the edge of a squad selection, given the young depth coming through.
22 Andrew Omobamidele (down from 13)
This man has been forgotten after Collins’ exploits, but he still seems like the most naturally gifted player we have coming through. Injury completely kyboshed his season but, like Idah, returns to the Championship where he should, really, be starting every single game. To borrow an already overused phrase from Football Twitter, he is a Rolls Royce defender that may have the highest ceiling out of everyone on this list, bar perhaps his goalkeeper.
23 Mark Travers (up from 24)
A fantastic season at club level sadly didn’t translate to minutes on the field for Ireland. Now he’s a Premier League starting goalkeeper, but Kenny seems to favour the obviously brilliant Bazunu and the more-adept-with-his-feet Kelleher. It’s a nice problem to have, but a shame personally for Travers that he had the season he did and still couldn’t extend on his three caps.
24 Darragh Lenihan (New Entrant)
Lenihan, soon to be of Middlesbrough, did very well against Ukraine having been sprung to action with the absences of Egan and Duffy. Depth at the position will be his problem, but at least we know we have a fine Championship centre back at our disposal should the need arise.
25 Cyrus Christie (up from 28)
History may look more fondly on Christie’s career than the present suggests, as he racked up his 30th Irish cap this summer in a difficult game against Ukraine in Dublin. Had a decent season on loan at Swansea, but he’s now a free agent and a move abroad seems to be on the cards.
26 Ryan Manning (down from 25)
In a difficult spot, given he’s not favoured for the wing back role and is way down the pecking order for the left-sided centre back role. Should continue to be picked but should a better wing back player emerge this season, could be quick on the chopping block.
27 Jamie McGrath (down from 10)
A shame to see such a fall, given his performances last November. A January move to Wigan killed his Irish selections stone dead as Kenny seemed adverse to picking a player who wasn’t playing. Really, the squad could probably do with a player of his ilk regardless of club time – and it was very annoying to see the likes of Mark Sykes picked ahead of him for the March friendlies, not play, then not be selected in the summer.
28 Jimmy Dunne (New Entrant)
Another new entrant, although he didn’t make the field this summer after a late call up. Dunne is in the same boat as Lenihan – a great squad player to have and offers depth in a position we are stacked in. It’d be great to see the stars align for him to make his debut at some point.
29 CJ Hamilton (New Entrant)
The Blackpool speedster was straight into the squad this summer after his international clearance and made his debut in the 1-nil loss to Ukraine. A Championship calibre player is always nice to have and he offers depth at either side of the attack. Was this a one and done? I wouldn’t be too sure.
30 Will Keane (down from 26)
Perhaps lucky not to fall further, given he was only trusted with a few minutes over the course of four games this summer having scored 26 goals and been League 1’s top scorer this season. How that doesn’t equate to more game time for Ireland is odd given our thirst for goals.
31 Scott Hogan
32 Festy Ebosele
33 James Talbot
34 Dan McNamara
35 Will Smallbone
36 Connor Ronan
37 Liam Scales
38 Mark Sykes
39 Callum O’Dowda
40 Lee O’Connor
41 Conor Coventry
42 Jack Taylor
43 Zak Elbouzedi
44 Aaron Connolly
45 Kevin Long
46 Marcus Harness
47 Anthony Scully
48 Ronan Curtis
49 Gavin Kilkenny
50 Sammie Szmodics