Ireland v USA – O’Shea’s last stand

Martin O’Neill sends his Republic of Ireland team out in Dublin for the first time in almost seven months on Saturday.

It has been 201 days since the playoff defeat by Denmark and the Irish have not gone that long without a home game since the early 1990s.

There was little appetite for home friendlies in the aftermath of the Danish defeat, and the size and attitude of the crowd against the USA will be interesting.

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The home fans will get a chance to say goodbye to John O’Shea who retires from international football with 118 caps after 17 years.

In particular, his last gasp equaliser against World Champions Germany in Gelsenkirchen will never be forgotten.

The main focus will be on the newer faces as O’Neill looks to the UEFA Nations League and Euro2020.

Declan Rice already looks a certain starter, while others will be given another chance to stake a claim.

Matt Doherty and Derek Williams will hope to make future squads while Kevin Long may nail down a starting spot, however it is further forward where O’Neill urgently requires new blood.

Shane Duffy’s early effort against Denmark remains the last Irish goal and it is difficult to see an obvious solution.

Alan Browne and the injured Sean Maguire scored goals for Preston North End but it is a huge step-up to international football from the Championship.

Conor Hourihane and Scott Hogan have had impressive spells in recent years but again at Championship level.

Youth Opportunity

The search may well go beyond the current squad; the U17 side were impressive in qualifying for the UEFA Finals in England.

They hit the headlines after a heart-breaking defeat on penalties by the Netherlands, and the Dutch went on to win the tournament.

The harsh (albeit technically correct) decision to order a penalty retake and send off the Irish keeper moved O’Neill to enter the pitch and confront the referee.

He had been an interested spectator at all four Irish games and cannot fail to have been impressed by Troy Parrot.

The Tottenham Hotspur youngster scored three of the four goals and was the standout Irish player.

Parrot is only 16 and will still be eligible when the FAI host next year’s tournament.

In two years, Ireland host games in Euro2020 and Parrot will be only 18 but if he continues to develop at White Hart Lane then O’Neill may have a long-term solution.

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Visiting Squad

Dave Sarachan’s squad has an average age of 23 and it would appear he is also looking to the future.

They are fresh from an impressive 3-0 demolition of Bolivia on Monday.

A four-match unbeaten run has seen some impressive displays but the ghosts of Couva and that disastrous defeat by Trinidad and Tobago in the World Cup qualifiers still need to be exorcised.

Sarachan then heads to Lyon to take on the French; he may want to get some tips from O’Neill for that one.

The Author

Gary Spain

Limerick born, Dublin based fan of Limerick FC and the Republic of Ireland national team. Gary has a keen interest in football across the island of Ireland and worldwide. He is a contributor to the Republic of Ireland and Limerick FC programmes and to Northern Ireland Football magazine.

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