Ireland Player Power Rankings: Winter 2021 Edition

It’s time for the winter edition of BPF’s patented, not at all scientific IIPPR, or Ireland International Player Power Rankings. It’s fair to say things have improved somewhat since the summer, when we were coming off the rush of beating Andorra. Now, we’re off the back of four clean sheets in a row, revenge over Luxembourg and twice coming away from feeling like we could’ve beaten Portugal. Here we go.

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.

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1 Callum Robinson (up from 7)

The West Brom man has emerged as Ireland’s leading forward since the summer after a period under Stephen Kenny barraged by injury and, ahem, Covid-19 issues. With six goals in four games, it’s a fair turnaround from the earlier days of scrambling for goalscorers and relying on large centre halves to force the point. Robinson, as of now, is Ireland’s most important attacker and tops our rank, up from 7th place in the summer.

2 Gavin Bazunu (up from 8)

Equalling the record for most caps as a teenager says it all about this man. Unlucky not to be number one given the standing at which he is now held as the bona-fide number one, despite tough competition from other young goalkeepers. Three clean sheets in a row plus some world class saves, not to mention the calmness and quality with the ball at his feet, has elevated Bazunu to national treasure status. If he keeps up this form he’ll be Ireland’s next hundredaire.

3 Shane Duffy (up from 13)

What a turnaround in about 12 months. He went into the summer as our #13 ranked player, having come off the back of a dismal loan spell at Celtic. His Irish form was no better and there were genuine question marks over whether he could hold down a starting place.

Fast forward a few months and Duffy is now performing Cruyff turns around Cristiano Ronaldo. Say no more.

4 Josh Cullen (up from 12)

The Anderlecht man has emerged as Ireland’s midfield maestro with a string of impressive performances in the number six role. He has grown into the position immaculately as is now undoubtedly the first man on the teamsheet when it comes to the midfield pairing. His club form, where he starts weekly in the Belgian league, has contributed to a solid outing in the Ireland team where he looks at home pulling the strings in an understated elegance.

5 John Egan (down from 1)

It’s probably unfair on Egan to see him drop, given he’s done nothing at all wrong, but it’s more a credit to the players around him moving up to his level. Egan was #1 in the summer because he was, at the time, the only player you could absolutely guarantee a starting place for. Now that there’s a handful, he’s unfortunately had to be rejigged in the pecking order. He’s still a guaranteed starter and the Sheffield Utd man, who Stephen Kenny claims is good enough for Champions League football, is part of an increasingly impressive looking Irish backline.

6 Matt Doherty (no change)

The Spurs man hasn’t had the best time of it at club level, but his performances for Ireland have gone from strength to strength. His consistency was an issue early on as he got to grips with his newfound role within the Irish team, but his end to the campaign was superb and he has shown leadership, confidence and a sturdy consistency that has elevated his and his teammates efforts down the right hand side of the Irish team.

7 Seamus Coleman (up from 9)

Captain fantastic put in an enormous shift against Portugal and looked at home on the right of a back three. Whether he starts too often going forward, he’s the leader and legend that this team is built around. Long may it last.

8 Chiedozie Ogbene (up from 30)

What a rise. Ogbene just scratched the top 30 in the summer on the basis of his five-minute cameo against Hungary where he wreaked havoc. A few months on and Ireland’s first African-born international has emerged as our most exciting attacking threat. He ran Portugal ragged with his pace and athleticism, and continued that onto Luxembourg and picked himself a goal. It’s an amazing story and the Cork man is now a certain inclusion going forward.

9 Jeff Hendrick (up from 20)

Hendrick’s recent performances have catapulted him back into relevancy. He struggled to find a role that suited him early on, but he has been superb alongside Cullen. Reliable if not always hugely consistent, sometimes he frustrated but his latest performances show a maturity and confidence in his game that, when he can deliver on a regular basis, is a certain starter for Ireland.

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10 Jamie McGrath (up from 21)

The St Mirren man has been a tremendous addition to the Irish setup, with his tidy play adding something we were lacking in attacking lines. Unlucky not to start against Luxembourg, but he has a role and will earn a lot of caps for Ireland.

11 Adam Idah (up from 15)

Still awaiting his first Irish goal, but he can’t say there’s been a lack of work ethic. His running and closing down is immense and his hold-up play can be exceptional at times. We just wonder how good this kid could be if he could find regular club football. Remember, he’s still only 20.

12 Jason Knight (down from 10)

Unlucky to fall down in the ranking really, but his spells have been mired by injury until his late cameo against Luxembourg showed why we can be so excited by this chap. A wonderful footballer in the making that Kenny raves about. His assist for Robinson’s goal was wonderful. Again, he’s only 20. Exciting times ahead.

13 Andrew Omobamidele (up from 29)

Norwich’s rising star absolutely catapulted into contention when he broke into the side towards the end of their Championship-winning season. Now he’s competing for his Premier League place and has a goal to his name, and is very unlucky now to have more minutes on the field. Say it quietly, but he looks like a genuine star in the making at the highest level and you can be certain Premier League clubs have him on an Excel sheet somewhere, keeping tabs on his status in case Norwich go down. To continue the theme – he’s still only 19.

14 Conor Hourihane (down from 3)

So far, Hourihane is probably the biggest loser out of so many players growing so fast over the course of the past few months. He was Ireland’s only form player towards the end of last season thanks to his run with Swansea, helping him to a lofty position of #3 in our rankings in the summer. Still a certain selection in the Irish squad and is a vital member of the panel.

15 James McClean (down from 14)

McClean’s steady performances at left wing back have changed a lot of people’s opinions of him. He has a role in the side and it seems to be best tied to a marauding left wing role where he can whip in some dangerous crosses, as we saw regularly against Luxembourg. He’s also on an incredible run of form for Wigan.

16 Enda Stevens (no change)

The Sheffield Utd man missed out on the Portugal and Serbia games, as well as the big win in Azerbaijan, but his role is guaranteed as long as he’s available, but the gap may be closer to McClean than you’d think. Got the nod in the return game against Portugal but was switched out for the Luxembourg game, which suggests he mightn’t have the same attacking gusto as McClean.

17 Troy Parrott (down from 11)

Parrott’s appearances have been moved to cameos, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing just yet. His ranking in the summer was helped by his massive performance against Andorra when we were 1-nil down and he came on and changed the game. His performances for MK Dons this year have caught the eye and it’s only a matter of time before he starts doing some amazing stuff in an Irish shirt.

18 Alan Browne (down from 4)

Missed the games against Azerbaijan and Qatar and just saw a few minutes against Luxembourg. Another who we were once relying on a bit too much now finding a more impactful role as a squad member providing very decent depth across a range of positions

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19 Caoimhin Kelleher (no change)

So, so unlucky to have emerged just when a certain G. Bazunu did. But what a problem to have if you’re Stephen Kenny or any Ireland manager for the next decade or more. If he ever breaks into the Liverpool side or gets a decent loan move then Kenny will have a serious headache.

20 Jayson Molumby (down from 17)

Unfortunate club form meant he missed out on the Qatar and Azerbaijan parties, but has recently broken into the West Brom side which is gunning for promotion. Hasn’t grasped the nettle as well as others despite being thrust into a starting role perhaps sooner than he should have, but an exciting prospect nonetheless and one who could emerge massively should he get weekly club football under his belt.

21 Daryl Horgan (down from 5)

His goal against Andorra was well deserved and he had always been a very solid contributor, but his role has change to more of a depth provider over the course of the past few international breaks.

22 Dara O’Shea (down from 2)

Down from 2 only on the basis of the injury picked up in Faro. Heartbreak for him, but he already has 10 caps to his name and will multiple that quickly once he returns to action.

23 Callum O’Dowda (down from 18)

Injuries curtailed much of his progress under Kenny, but a return to the squad for this latest camp doesn’t come as a surprise. Has sneakily been one of Ireland’s most consistent players at club level at Bristol City, which means he’ll make more squads and more caps as we move forward.

24 Mark Travers (up from 43)

The first player to elevate based purely on club form. His performances for Bournemouth have been superb this season and are on course for automatic promotion. His game against Serbia shouldn’t be held against him – if his current form is anything to go by, we have a very, very good #3 on our hands and shouldn’t be afraid to see him deputise when required.

25 Ryan Manning (up from 35)

Manning has been a regular in squads but doesn’t seem to be trusted with a more regular role just yet. Only four caps and will need a lot to go his way – or maybe some retirements – before he sees a starting role.

26 Will Keane (new entrant)

A surprise new entrant after he was plucked from a recent international clearance for the Azerbaijan and Qatar break. Called up again this time around and came on to debut against Portugal. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep his place should someone like Aaron Connolly’s form pick up, or should an Anthony Scully or Ronan Curtis do enough at club level.

27 Aaron Connolly (down from 25)

Needs a loan, badly. Hasn’t drove on from his fantastic start at Brighton and everything has been hindered as a result. Went from starting in Faro to not being included in this latest squad, but can easily bounce back if he gets some Brighton minutes or moves on loan in January.

28 Cyrus Christie (no change)

Has steadily made it to 29 caps. Wasn’t called up this time around but has always put in a shift for Ireland and is a solid inclusion whenever required.

29 James Collins (down from 22)

Injury left him out of this camp. Will have a tougher time breaking back into the mix than someone like Connolly, but is supposedly a popular squad member and could have a role for another while yet.

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30 Jack Taylor (up from 44)

Very solid form for Peterborough earned him a call up for the Luxembourg game, but he didn’t make the matchday squad. Probably needs a few things to align to earn another call-up, but his club form could change that tune when the summer Nations League games whirl around.

31 Liam Scales
32 Gavin Kilkenny
33 Anthony Scully
34 Ciaran Clark
35 Ronan Curtis
36 Zack Elbouzedi
37 James McCarthy
38 Conor Coventry
39 Marcus Harness
40 Lee O’Connor
41 Shane Long
42 Danny Mandriou
43 James Talbot
44 Kevin Long
45 Harry Arter
46 Connor Ronan
47 Will Smallbone
48 Scott Hogan
49 Festy Ebosele
50 Michael Obafemi

The Author

Kevin Coleman

Founder and co-editor of Back Page Football and current host of our 'Three At The Back' weekly podcast.

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