Who will make Martin O’Neill’s final Republic of Ireland cut for Euro 2016?
Lee Gormley | April 25, 2016
Which players will make the final Irish cut?
Euro 2016 is swiftly approaching and as domestic campaigns around the continent come to a close, international bosses will be preparing to make the final cuts to their chosen squads which will embark upon France this summer.
One such manager is the Republic of Ireland’s Martin O’Neill, as the Derry-born coach ponders over his selections following a successful qualifying campaign via the play-offs and encouraging recent friendly outings against Switzerland and Slovakia.
Although, with a number of injuries having potentially scuppered some of his stars’ chances of going to France, as well as fringe players ending their seasons strongly to push for a spot, O’Neill has plenty still to think about before the official squad announcement deadline on May 12th. So who is, so to speak, on the plane this June?
Long-serving Irish stopper Shay Given looked set for an inclusion in O’Neill’s final squad for France this summer, but a recent groin injury may have given him a scare after being forced off at half-time during Stoke City’s 4-0 defeat to his former club Manchester City.
Given, who became only the 14th player in Premier League history to start a game aged 40 or over in that loss, is odds-on 1/16 with Coral to book a spot in Ireland’s Euro 2016 set-up, though he will have stern competition for a starting spot if he avoids any further injury setbacks.
The veteran goal-guard’s rival for the number one jersey, West Ham United’s Darron Randolph (1/25 to make cut), performed gallantly during the conclusion of qualifying and in the successful play-off tie with Bosnia and Herzegovina, boosting his chances of starting against Sweden during their tournament opener on June 13th.
Newcastle United stopper Rob Elliot was unlucky to sustain a season ending injury during his outing in the 2-2 stalemate with Slovakia, as he unfortunately tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee following a save at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in March.
With the English-born Ireland goalie now ruled out of action, Millwall’s David Forde will see his chances of selection boosted significantly, and he is odds-on 1/8 to go to France.
Meanwhile, often overlooked Sheffield Wednesday number one Keiren Westwood is an outside 6/4, after impressive club outings for the Yorkshire outfit, while Charlton Athletic’s Stephen Henderson is a 5/1 shot.
Ireland’s triumphant attempts to reach Euro 2016 were built on a very sturdy backline, with O’Neill’s men having conceded a qualifying Group D lowest of just seven goals, despite facing both dangerous attacking nation Poland and world champions Germany.
Pivotal to that solid foundation was Sunderland centre back John O’Shea, who is odds-on 1/25 to go to France, as the towering former Manchester United man forged a crucial role in the back four, while Derby County’s Richard Keogh (1/16) and Ciaran Clark (1/14) played important roles too.
The Boys in Green rearguard will need to be at their resolute best once again at the actual finals, with a Zlatan Ibrahimovic led Sweden, a potentially threatening Italy and seemingly supreme Belgium side standing in their way in Group E.
Flying Everton full back Seamus Coleman is one of the first names on the teamsheet for O’Neill and his trusted right back is 1/25 for a trip to France, while back-up defender Cyrus Christie is 1/12, with Robbie Brady (1/25) and Stephen Ward (1/10) battling for a spot on the left flank.
There are several defenders on the fringes though, with Derry-born Blackburn Rovers centre back Shane Duffy (4/6) hoping to be involved, as well as Reading’s Paul McShane (6/5) and Stoke’s Marc Wilson (13/10), with the latter winning a fitness race after picking up a knock in January.
Bristol City centre half Alex Pearce, who is on loan from Derby, is 4/1 to secure a squad position, with Wolverhampton Wanderers right back Matt Doherty available at 6/1 and Preston North End left back Greg Cunningham 8/1.
Sean St Ledger struck Ireland’s only goal of a hapless Euro 2012 campaign and the current Colorado Rapids defender is 12/1 to make an unlikely visit to France this summer, as he plies his trade in the MLS.
Having made his Irish debut against Switzerland this year, Brentford’s Alan Judge was recently dealt a massive blow as he sustained an untimely broken leg while on club duties and was subsequently ruled out of Euro 2016.
The Bees midfielder looked set to break into O’Neill’s squad after netting 14 times 39 appearances for the Championship side, but the injury picked up against Ipswich Town has seen his tournament hopes sadly dashed.
In his absence, there are others who will see an opportunity to force their way into the fray, but the likes of Everton’s James McCarthy (1/18), Stoke enforcer Glenn Whelan (1/25), Derby anchorman Jeff Hendrick (1/16) and Norwich City playmaker Wes Hoolahan (1/16) are all virtually guaranteed a squad spot.
Hull City’s David Meyler (1/2), Reading’s Stephen Quinn (4/6) and Bournemouth playmaker Harry Arter (10/11) will all be confident of a spot in O’Neill’s squad after featuring during qualifying, though the latter’s Cherries teammate Eunan O’Kane is further down the pecking order.
The 25-year-old made his international bow earlier this year and is 6/4 to go to Euro 2016, while Darron Gibson is 3/1 to travel, after being part of the gallant Toffees side that were agonisingly toppled by Man Utd in the FA Cup semi-final. Rotherham United central midfielder Paul Green is an outside 5/1 chance for a trip to France.
O’Neill has plenty of wide options for the tournament, with starting spots likely to be given to James McClean (1/12) and Aiden McGeady (1/4), while Brady has featured in both defence and midfield. Cardiff City’s Anthony Pilkington is 6/1 to be on the plane, while Peterborough Untied’s Christopher Forrester and Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes are 10/1 and 9/1 respectively.
The reign of O’Neill, and his helpful assistant Roy Keane, may be based around a strong backline, but his forward options are very encouraging, with star of qualifying Jonathan Walters (1/20) set to lead the line after shaking off injury, while goalscoring hero Shane Long (1/25) will undoubtedly be key too.
Skipper and all-time leading scorer Robbie Keane has saw his role become more of an impact sub of late, being 35 years of age, but he is odds-on 1/20 to go to France nevertheless if he can shake off a recent knock.
O’Neill admitted that he would probably still bring captain Keane as a valuable experienced head if he cannot recover fitness and form in time, with Daryl Murphy (1/16) also set to travel, though Kevin Doyle is 2/1 to head for France following his scoring return to action for Colorado Rapids after a horror leg injury.
Celtic-owned Hibernian striker Anthony Stokes was hoping a loan switch to his former club would bolster his chances of catching O’Neill’s eye and, after six strikes so far in his temporary spell, he is 4/1 to earn a place in Ireland’s set-up, while fellow Scotland-based frontman Adam Rooney is 10/1.
The Aberdeen forward has struck 19 times in this superb season yet again in the Scottish Premiership, helping push defending champions Celtic all the way, and he will feel he warrants a place for the summer’s showcase event.
Meanwhile, Reading attacker Simon Cox is 5/1 to travel, while Ipswich marksman David McGoldrick is 8/1 to be part of the squad which will hope to make an impact in France and banish memories of that disappointing Euro 2012 campaign under former Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni.