Hawkeye Sidekick

Goalkeeper berth is the least of Stephen Kenny’s concern ahead of Serbia

Stephen Kenny has announced the Republic of Ireland squad who he hopes will deliver a strong start to the start of the FIFA World Cup qualification campaign. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the squad announcement.

Republic of Ireland have tried to change the game plan, look to pass it out from the back but no variation in play means that the front players have been starved of genuine attacks with disappointing end product from the wide channels. Midfielders not looking to gamble and make a run in support of Adam Idah.

The football has been a tough watch last year. The Duff exit and Wembley saga raged on for too long in the public domain.

The hope is that management have learned from last year’s fixtures and look to come into this qualification campaign with fresh ideas. The arrival of Dean Kiely and highly respected Anthony Barry to the coaching ticket should add enthusiasm and perhaps the outside voices required to kickstart the Stephen Kenny era with some vital wins.

The squad announcement today was strangely late. Serbia announced their squad two weeks ago. I know Covid-19 precautions means that the squad will assemble in Manchester this weekend but was it to give more players sufficient game time to impress before including them in the squad? The latter hopefully, otherwise the aesthetics of the late squad announcement is off.

The main headline from the media hordes tomorrow morning will be the the four goalkeepers named in this squad. All inexperienced at this senior level but massive talents nonetheless. Caoimhin Kelleher must prove his fitness so the mere fact that we have three other keepers in the squad would suggest Kenny and management are already thinking of alternatives in addition to the Darren Randolph’s withdrawal.

Mark Travers appears primed to get the callup if Kelleher fails to prove his fitness. Travers has massive potential but I am concerned about his distinct lack of game time this season. His club career at AFC Bournemouth has stalled and his loan move to Swindon Town was cut short last month by his parent club, a move that was required in my opinion for the player. The lack of game time hopefully does not come back and bite the player or the team if called upon next week.

The other options see Kieran O’Hara (Burton) and Gavin Bazunu in the fold. O’Hara is an experienced netminder. His form has improved considerably in recent months with Burton as they climb up the League One table.

Gavin Bazunu is on loan with Rochdale. He has impressed in a trying season for the League One club. Bazunu is a massive prospect, a bit early for him this time around but it is a case of when and not if when he lines up for his country at senior level. A player destined for the very top!

The biggest concern and biggest question for Stephen Kenny is Shane Duffy. The Derry native has never letdown anyone when in national team duty but he has had a massively disappointing spell with Glasgow Celtic on loan this season. Low in confidence and form, Stephen Kenny has said that no one is immune to being dropped from the starting line but Duffy has been one of his go to men so far. Interesting selection poser for Kenny to solve.

I am not quite getting the Troy Parrott recall truth be told. Parrott needs more game time and more goals with Ipswich Town before being even considered for this level of football. The guy if he continues to work hard will be a fine senior international but he has not proven it yet on the basis of his performances with Millwall or Ipswich Town this term. Olamide Shodipo would have been a better pick, a player in form and scoring goals for Oxford United (11 this term).

Stephen Kenny though should give youth its chance in midfield. I would be disappointed if Jason Knight did not feature next week. The player has reveled in Derby County this season despite their perilous league position. Wayne Rooney is a massive fan of the player. We need a midfield player with high energy who is prepared to make runs from deep into the opposition box, something that has been lacking in the side. Excellent long range shot to boot.

The attacking options to Kenny have dwindled. David McGoldrick has retired (despite recent Instagram updates) and Adam Idah is missing due to injury. There is a question mark on Aaron Connolly’s participation given fitness concerns and news of Brighton dealing with the player on an apparent Covid-19 breach is not good.

I would like Shane Long to lead the line with Callum Robinson coming into the side to play off Long if Connolly is not fit to travel. Long and Robinson could be a good combination, pace and guile to create chances. Stephen Kenny needs leaders on the park next week. Long can provide that from the front and more but he is only as good as the service provided from midfield.

The majority of the squad picked itself. It will be interesting to see if Seamus Coleman gets game time here. Matt Doherty and Enda Stevens have been preferred on the flanks. Coleman potentially a third central defensive player in the side? Coleman is required in Belgrade, his leadership and organizational skills will be required given an inexperienced keeper in the ranks.

This is not the time for Stephen Kenny to go conservative on starting lineup selection. He needs to pick players who are performing well for their clubs. His appointment was supposed to herald young players from the underage ranks into the senior side. If he resorts to the tried and trusted again for this campaign early, then I hope for his sake that he secures three points in Belgrade. Otherwise, he is doomed and the media will let him know in double quick time.

My Lineup (5-3-2) Kelleher (if not fit Travers), Doherty, O’Shea, Clark, Coleman, Stevens, Knight, Molumby, Hendrick, Connolly and Long.

Kenny Lineup (4-3-2-1) Kelleher (if not fit Travers), Doherty, O’Shea, Duffy, Stevens, Browne, Hourihane, Hendrick, Connolly, Robinson and Collins or Long (50/50 call).