Who’s taking the plane to France? Power ranking the Irish players ahead of Euro 2016

Off the Ball's Nathan Murphy takes a look through all the players in contention to make it to the finals

Ireland, Euro 2016, power ranking,

Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

As Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane go through the process of making a list and checking it twice, Off the Ball's Nathan Murphy has done something similar.

However, he'll be checking it more often as we keep the power rankings of the 35 Irish players in line to make the trip to France up to date after each week's action in the Premier League and the Championship.

Starting with the first name on the team sheet (literally, in this case), Nathan breaks down who's going, who's not and who might be in with a shot. 

1: SEAMUS COLEMAN

Coleman’s importance to Martin O’Neill was reinforced when he was handed the captain's armband against Switzerland. We've still to see the Donegal man at his attacking best in a green jersey but a move to the diamond system used against Slovakia could bring the best out of Coleman and finally see him make more of a contribution in the final third.

2: JAMES MCCARTHY (Up 1 place)

He’ll never be Roy Keane but McCarthy has finally started the produce the sort of performance for Ireland that he’s been producing in the Premier League for the past seven years. A recent hip injury has given Martin O’Neill cause for concern but all going well Euro 2016 could be the moment McCarthy announces himself on the world stage.

3: WES HOOLAHAN (Up 4)

Any questions over Hoolahan’s ability at international level have long since been answered, Martin O’Neill has handed Hoolahan a start in seven of Ireland’s last eight competitive fixtures and he was the outstanding player on the pitch against Slovakia.

4: JON WALTERS (Down 2)

The knee injury that ruled him out of the 2 friendlies is hopefully no more than a setback as Walters should be one of the first names on the team-sheet when O’Neill names his starting 11 to face Sweden.

Five goals in his last six competitive appearances, Walters has become the heartbeat of this Irish squad. So effective drifting in from the right wing during the qualification campaign, Walters could start up front if O’Neill decides to continue with the diamond formation used against Slovakia.

 

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

 

5: ROBBIE BRADY (Down 1)

The "set-piece specialist" has lived up to the tag for club and country in the past week. Still looked positionally unsure when starting at left-back against Switzerland, Brady will surely be a target for our three group opponents in France.

6: GLENN WHELAN (Down 1)

Whelan has come in for the usual criticisms following his performance against Slovakia but, if anything, the change to a diamond formation has made Whelan more important than ever. He’s never going be a creative force but his ability to read the game and provide cover for the defence means he’s a sure-fire starter in France.

7: SHANE LONG (Up 1)

The big winner from the games against Switzerland and Slovakia. O’Neill always seemed to look at Long as an impact sub but he was outstanding playing off the shoulder of the Slovakian defence, winning two penalties and showing yet again that he’s playing some of the best football of his career. It would be a major mistake for O’Neill to leave Long out against Sweden.

8: DARREN RANDOLPH (Up 8)

Came into the two games as favourite to see off Rob Elliott for the goalkeepers jersey so Elliott’s unfortunate knee injury ended the debate. Randolph once again didn’t do too much wrong in the two friendlies but it’s going to be a huge step-up from being West Ham’s back-up keeper to starter for Ireland at the European Championship.

9: JOHN O’SHEA (Down 3)

No question about his position in the squad but O’Shea could do with getting his place back in the Sunderland side if he’s to be assured of a spot in the starting 11 against Sweden. Played every minute in the qualifying campaign up to his late red card against Poland so had to watch on as Ciaran Clarke and Richard Keogh impressed against Bosnia. O’Shea’s experience may just be enough to earn a place in the heart of the defence.

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

 

10: JAMES McCLEAN

A constant threat after being given a surprise start up front alongside Shane Long against Slovakia, it’s a role he could well reprise in the summer if Ireland’s injury situation doesn’t improve. McClean only started one of Ireland’s last eight qualifiers but he looks certain to play a major role in France, even if his appearances are likely to come from the bench.

11: JEFF HENDRICK (Down 2)

The shoulder injury that ruled him out of the two friendlies has been followed by a thigh injury that could rule him out for a number of weeks. It all means Hendrick has gone from being a definite starter to facing an uncertain few weeks. If he’s fit he’ll travel but Hendrick may not have as big a role in France as was expected.

AFC Bournemouth's Harry Arter and Southampton's Oriol Romeu (left) battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth. Picture by: John Walton / PA Wire/Press Association Images

 

12: CYRUS CHRISTIE (Up 5)

The diamond formation used against Slovakia played to Christie’s attacking strengths and the Derby player’s performance has led to calls for Martin O’Neill to find a way to start both Coleman and Christie in the same side - that’s not going to happen - but Christie did do enough to secure his place on the plane.

13: RICHARD KEOGH (Down 2)

Didn’t play in either friendly but remains a key player for O’Neill. Impressed when it mattered alongside O’Shea against Germany and with Clarke in the play-off against Bosnia. Keogh should start against Sweden but it’s difficult to figure out what exactly is O’Neill’s first choice partnership.

14: CIARAN CLARKE (Up 1)

While Shane Duffy took the plaudits after the win over Switzerland, Clarke didn’t do his cause any harm with a goal and a clean-sheet. Still looks to be behind O’Shea and Keogh but looks to have O’Neill’s trust and a good pre-tournament could see the Villa defender force his way into the starting 11.

15: STEPHEN WARD (Down 2)

Endured a difficult evening against Slovakia but was trusted with starts against Germany and Bosnia and remains the main back-up for Robbie Brady at left-back.

16: SHAY GIVEN (Up 7)

Hasn’t played any football since September and has made just three league appearance in the last two seasons but despite all of that Shay Given now looks set to make the final squad for the trip to France. Injuries to Rob Elliott at international level and Jack Butland at club level appeared to open the door for Given to make a late push to start in France but Mark Hughes decision to go with Jacob Haugaard in goal against Swansea last weekend means Given may struggle to get any game time before the end of the season. Still, he started the qualification campaign as first choice so if he’s fit he looks to most likely back-up to Darren Randolph

17: DARYL MURPHY (Down 3)

A calf injury curtailed his chance to impress against Switzerland and that looks to have given Shane Long the chance to close the door on the debate as to who will start up-front against Sweden. The 33-year-old will still make the 23 and should see some game time over the three group games.

18: ROBBIE KEANE (Down 6)

A niggly knee injury that became a serious knee operation and has cast some doubt over Keane’s ability to make a third major finals. His 67 goals means Keane will travel if fit but it’s difficult to see the 35-year-old making much of an impact in France.

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

 

19: HARRY ARTER (Down 1)

Arter went into the two friendlies with the most to gain of any Irish player so it must have been incredibly frustrating for both player and manager that Arter missed both games with an achilles injury. Thirty minutes against England last summer remains the sum total of Arter’s international experience but both O’Neill and Keane hinted that Arter’s form for Bournemouth would be enough to secure his place on the plane.

20: DAVID FORDE (Up 7)

Looked in trouble ahead of the two friendlies but despite not playing in either game it was still a good couple of weeks for the Galway man. Firstly he was selected ahead of Kieron Westwood in the 33-man squad for the two games and then Rob Elliott’s injury moved him up the pecking order again. Forde hasn’t played for Milwall since early January so should count himself lucky that O’Neill’s loyalty means he looks set to keep Westwood out of the squad.

21: AIDEN MCGEADY (Down 2)

A typically frustrating hour against Switzerland has seen his stock fall yet again, those vital goals in Georgia seem like a lifetime ago now. His move to Sheffield Wednesday means he’s getting some game time but if they are is to be a major shock in O’Neill’s final 23, leaving out McGeady could be it. For now he makes it. Just.

22: DAVID MYLER (Down 1)

Another player to struggle in O’Neill’s old-fashioned 4-4-2 against Switzerland, Myler is also struggling to get a game for Hull at the moment. Why then is he still in the 23? Well he’s the only real back-up option if Glenn Whelan gets injured, that alone might be enough to see him squeeze into the 23.

23: SHANE DUFFY

An exceptional 90 minutes against Switzerland has thrust Duffy right into the mix. A presence, both physically and mentally, Duffy could well be a starter by the World Cup qualifiers. His inclusion could depend largely on Marc Wilson’s return from injury but what harm would it do to give the 24-year-old some tournament experience?

24: MARC WILSON (Down 2)

One of the biggest decisions facing O’Neill. Wilson had fallen to fourth choice centre-back in recent times and was struggling to get in the Stoke team even before he picked up the knee injury that has ruled him out for another few weeks. Wilson’s versatility may see him sneak into the squad but at the moment he falls just outside the 23.

Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

 

25: EUNAN O’KANE

Didn’t look out of place on the right side of the diamond against Slovakia, linking up well with Cyrus Christie on several occasions. That performance certainly put him in the reckoning but the biggest issue facing O’Kane now is getting some game time with Bournemouth. O’Kane started last weekends 4-0 defeat to Manchester City but he could struggle to get in the side when Arter returns from injury.

26: KIERON WESTWOOD

His hopes of making the 23 for France looked to be over when he was left out of the squad for the two friendlies but the injury to Elliott and Given’s lack of first team football have given Westwood a glimmer of hope. Rated by many as the best goalkeeper in the Championship, Westwood should really be contending to start but the sense is that O’Neill hasn’t forgiven him for his countless withdrawals over the past two years.

27: KEVIN DOYLE (Up 2)

Not a huge amount has changed for Doyle despite the horrible looking injury suffered against Switzerland. If any of Long, Walters, Murphy or Keane can’t travel then Doyle probably will.

28: Down 2 STEPHEN QUINN

A sloppy performance against Switzerland has probably put paid to his chances of making the 23.

29: PAUL MCSHANE (Down 1)

McShane hasn’t played a competitive game since “that night in Paris” and he might well never play another one after a nightmare performance against Slovakia.

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

30: JONATHON HAYES (Up 1)

A surprise inclusion in the squad, played in both games but looks a long shot to make the 23.

31: ANTHONY PILKINGTON (Down 1)

Yet another opportunity missed to restart his international career. Missed the game against Switzerland before a forgettable 23 minutes against Slovakia.

32: ALEX PEARCE (Down 1)

Was always relying on injuries to others to make the squad but has also fallen behind Shane Duffy in the centre-backs pecking order.

33 STEPHEN GLEESON

Eight years since his last international experience Gleeson was another surprise inclusion in O’Neill’s squad. He didn’t see any action in either friendly and can book his summer holidays.

34: MATT DOHERTY

Another who didn’t feature in either friendly and can make other plans for June.

35: DARRON GIBSON (Down 5)

His omission from the 33-man squad for the two friendlies confirmed what was already known - Gibson won’t be playing international football until he finds a new club.