Hawkeye Sidekick

Stephen Kenny era starts with few new inclusions in first senior squad announcement

No new vision in this squad selection

This was the day that Republic of Ireland football fans were waiting for. A brave new world, a new vision for the senior side would be unveiled by new manager Stephen Kenny.

Oh well, the squad announcement today will disappoint those fans who were hoping for significant personnel changes and it also raises questions on the squad depth in the side particularly attacking and defensive areas. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects.

Goalkeepers: 

  • Darren Randolph (West Ham United) – precious game time with West Ham United, the hope is he will get this in the new season; otherwise his position as number one for the senior side is in threat.
  • Mark Travers (Bournemouth) – given the departures of Aaron Ramsdale and Artur Boruc in the off season, surely this is the season for Travers to secure the number one keeper spot with AFC Bournemouth but with a club in transition, this could be a challenging season for the Kildare native.
  • Kieran O’Hara (unattached) – the inclusion is okay but given that the player is not with a football club, surely someone like James Talbot would have given a chance to train with the squad. Caoimhin Kelleher is a work in progress as well.

Defenders: 

  • Seamus Coleman (Everton) – the question is where do you play Coleman with the undeniable evidence that Doherty must start on the flank.
  • Matt Doherty (Wolves) – impressive season with Wolverhampton Wanderers and a player who should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
  • Enda Stevens (Sheffield United) – another player to excel for his club, full back par excellence in the past season and is a lock for the full back position.
  • Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion) – lack of game time is a concern but the player could make a move to Glasgow Celtic which would alleviate this concern. A player whose aerial prowess is immense and set piece threat. The question here is whether Kenny’s game plan suit Duffy. Potter does not seem to fancy Duffy with the defensive style of play he wants at BHA but it remains to be seen if he is a long term option for Kenny too.
  • John Egan (Sheffield United) – lock for the central defensive position, a superb EPL debut season and started to get on the score sheet as well.
  • Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers) – solid end of the season with club, not sure if game minutes will come here but an assured performer.

I am not sure what Dara O’Shea and Ryan Manning would have thought of this squad selection. O’Shea was excellent for WBA during their automatic promotion run in. Manning impressed for QPR after the league resumption. The issue here is that Coleman, Stevens and Doherty but surely a player worth a look in time. Collins at Stoke City and Masterson at QPR could feature if they impress early next season.

Midfielders: 

  • James McCarthy (Crystal Palace) – great to see the player back after a solid season with Palace where he got game minutes. A player who can win back possession and provide defensive and attacking options. A player who if injury free should play a big part for Kenny’s plans.
  • Harry Arter (Fulham) – a squad inclusion which does nothing for me personally. Arter was on loan with Fulham thanks to his brother in law Scott Parker. To be fair to the player, he impressed down the stretch for Fulham with some solid cameos. It remains to be seen where Arter plays his club football next season. We should be looking elsewhere truth be told and perhaps it is last chance saloon for the player with Kenny in charge.
  • Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United) – long term deal secured with Newcastle United but with a competitive midfield containing Shelvey, Longstaff, he will need to hit the ground running. A player who can provide creative moments but will Kenny play to his strengths?
  • Alan Browne (Preston North End) – subdued display with PNE at the back end of last season. A player who for me who should be looking over his shoulder here with Smallbone, Byrne looking for a recall.
  • Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa) – the Cork native was prominent for Aston Villa during their EPL survival. Great set piece. A player capable of providing attacking threat. Hoping he pushes on for the new season.
  • Jayson Molumby (Brighton and Hove Albion – the Waterford native could not be left out of this squad; his form with Millwall last season was sensational and is a player which crave for. Will he get game minutes? Given the squad selection, probably not but it is only a matter of time when he nails down a central midfield spot.
  • Robbie Brady (Burnley) – a player who needs to return to the form that we saw during Euros Championships 2016. Injury hit, some game minutes at the end of last season but plenty to prove here on whether the player merits inclusion.

As mentioned, Will Smallbone and Jack Byrne will be disappointed with their exclusion. The age profile, the skill on the ball were supposedly perfect fits but it is early days and these players will look to start or resume the season with aplomb. Alan Judge also has not done much wrong in his exclusion. Glenn Whelan owes nothing to the national jersey, he will remain available for selection.

Forwards: 

  • Callum Robinson (Sheffield United) – an indifferent end of season with WBA, not sure if Slaven Bilic will bite at a permanent move offer for the player. Robinson has the speed but his composure at key moments lets him down. This new season and how he starts is massive. A forward, more like attacking midfielder?
  • Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City) – flashes of brilliance from the Bristol City player who saw Lee Johnson get the sack. An out out winger not a forward. Game minutes look minimal here.
  • James McClean (Stoke City) – encouraging signs from the Derry native as Stoke City climbed up the table at the end of the past season. Michael O’Neill man management huge in McClean upsurge in form. A player who looks like he will slot into midfield berth again. Why put him down as a forward?
  • Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion) – the Galway native is a key squad player for his club and the hope is that he will be given time to impress in the international stage. A player ideal for sitting off the nine, look to make astute runs into the box to score goals. He needs game time but whether he gets it against Bulgaria and Finland is anyone’s guess.
  • Adam Idah (Norwich City) – I like the player but this is too soon for the player. The player needs to focus on his club career and with Jordan Hugill arriving at Carrow Road, the opportunity to get game minutes as the main striker looks even more diminished. Does Pukki leave? Idah may need to go on loan to get game minutes. A questionable inclusion for now.
  • Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur – on loan at Millwall) – another questionable inclusion. Zero game minutes for his club. This Millwall loan hopefully is akin to what happened with Jayson Molumby last season; early goals for Parrott should see the player take off in confidence. This inclusion seems premature like Idah.
  • Shane Long (Southampton) – given his end of season form and plaudits from club manager Hassenhuttl, Long was required given that David McGoldrick was unavailable for the Bulgarian trip. The Tipperary native is a player who will make defenders life hell with his pressure game and pace down the flanks creating chances. His goal ratio we know about but this is a solid inclusion. Experienced front player.

The big omission here is Michael Obafemi who played more minutes than either Adam Idah or Troy Parrott for his club. The reaction from Obafemi was of bemusement of his omission and who could blame him? Obafemi will need to prove Stephen Kenny wrong with a sharp start to the new season.

Sean Maguire omission is also noteworthy. Kenny looking at other options as Maguire looks to improve his goal ratio with Preston North End. His approach play and setup work is excellent but the goals have dried up in recent months so time for Maguire to knuckle down and start scoring for his club again.

Scott Hogan and James Collins look to have played their last international games for the country given this early squad selection. They are down the pecking order and their age profile means Kenny is looking at his other options.

It remains to be seen how Stephen Kenny will approach this opening fixture assignment against Bulgaria, a side who offered little when they met the Republic of Ireland earlier last season. Will a 3-5-2 formation be adopted or will Kenny adhere to a more defensive approach?

The squad selection was an opportunity to run the rule on more underage prospects but the squad looks quite consistent to that of Kenny’s predecessor.

Perhaps, Kenny wants to give these current players a chance to impress but the opening squad selection usually signals a new ethos or vision. Kenny has missed this opportunity and to significantly alter personnel now going forward would be seen as panic moves. Time will tell but the brave new world promised has failed to materialize with this senior squad selection.

Formation: 3-5-2

Randolph,

Coleman, Egan, Duffy,

Doherty, McCarthy, Hendrick, Hourihane, Stevens,

Connolly, Long