Football in the Republic of Ireland, like most of their counterparts from the British Isles, is enjoying a purple patch right now and the country’s population should consider themselves extremely lucky to be witnessing this golden period first hand.
Former Leicester City, Aston Villa and Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is the talented individual at the helm of this fruitful phase and he must be given a lot of credit for taking the country onwards and upwards since his appointment three years ago.
The Irish were ranked 67th in the FIFA World Rankings back when O’Neill took over in 2013. Three years since then, they are ranked 31st in the world, ahead of teams like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Denmark. Would you still bet on the Republic of Ireland to do well?
O’Neill, like most other coaches leading their team into the Euros, has named a larger pool of players before submitting the final 23 man squad by the 31st of May. In fact, the Irish have named the largest provisional squad of all the teams taking part in the Euros with 35 talented individuals being in contention to travel to France.
In terms of team news, Martin O’Neill has confirmed that Stoke centre-back Marc Wilson will not take any part in the Euros over the summer as he has been unable to recover from a long standing knee injury. The boss has also trimmed his squad further after putting Paul McShane, Alex Pearce, Anthony Pilkington and Jonathan Hayes on standby ahead of their friendlies against Holland and Belarus. O’Neill also confirmed that Everton midfielder James McCarthy may be a doubt for these fixtures as he has had a scan on his thigh.
One player who’s seat on the plane to France is confirmed is Southampton forward Shane Long. The 29-year-old is coming off the back of a great season in the Premier League where he scored 13 goals and assisted a further six. Robbie Keane, David McGoldrick, Kevin Doyle and Daryl Murphy are the four other strikers who are still a part of the Irish squad.
In midfield, the Irish have a gamut of top class talent and it’ll be interesting to see what Martin O’Neill’s preferred midfield set up is. Stoke pair Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters, Bournemouth pair Harry Arter and Eunan O’Kane and Everton pair Darron Gibson and James McCarthy are only a few of the household names that Ireland have at their disposal. Wing wizards Aiden McGeady and Robbie Brady will surely have important parts to play in France, offering their side a directness from the flanks.
Ireland head into Euro 2016 with possibly their strongest squad in years. This claim is proven to an extent when you realise that this is only The Green Army’s third appearance at the Euros. While there are no easy draws in a competition as fierce as the Euro Cup, Ireland managed to get drawn into a group that was actually a tad bit tougher than the rest.
With Belgium, Italy and Sweden to give them company in Group E in the final tournament, the Irish will have their work cut out in reaching the knockout stages. If they were to pull of the impossible and make it to the Round of 16, they would have gone further than any Irish team at the Euros, and if that honour is not enough to motivate these lads, I don’t know what is.