Alan Cawley: My Ireland starting XI for the Stephen Kenny era

A few new faces could make the grade.


It’s just over four months until Ireland’s first game in the Stephen Kenny era takes place. As it stands, Bulgaria in the Uefa Nations League on September 3rd is that game. That’s two months before our play-off date with Slovakia.

You can be sure that Stephen will already be putting a plan in place for that match too. So, with that in mind, here’s how I’m thinking we should line out for that September showdown. It will be a 4-3-3 formation too. So Stephen, are you listening?

1. Darren Randolph

He’s done well for Ireland and I think Stephen will acknowledge that. Right now, he’s the best goalkeeper we have and I can’t remember one match where I thought he was poor for Ireland. I don’t think any of the other keepers have done enough to replace him. There is young Caoimhin Kelleher, who has played for Stephen with the U-21’s, but Darren has the jersey and I think he’ll hold on to it too.

2. Matt Doherty

Even though Seamus (Coleman) is still the captain, Stephen has said that he’ll have to work to keep his place. Anyway, right at this moment for both club and country, Doherty is the form pick. The way he’s been playing over the last year for Wolves, you’d have to go with Doherty. With a 3-5-2 formation, there is the option of playing Coleman as well. but as I’m the gaffer, it’s Doherty for me at right back.

3. Enda Stevens

He’s nailed on for this position as he’s having a brilliant season at Sheffield Utd and played every minute for them in the Premier League season so far. In his 14 caps already for Ireland, he’s emerged as our go to left full back. Stephen Kenny will stick with him in that position as well.

He’ll be playing for Ireland for a long time.

4. John Egan

He’s already become one of the main stays of the team. Egan is very consistent and has taken to playing in the Premier League for Sheffield United like a duck to water. He’s also grabbed his opportunity at international level really well. He’s part of a really strong back four we now have.

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5. Shane Duffy

The Brighton defender is now the main leader on the Ireland team and you could call him the new Richard Dunne. He’s the warrior of the team but he also possesses the ability to score a goal, which is invaluable for the type of team that we are. He’s as good as any centre-half going up for corners and free kicks. There’s no doubt though, he’s our main centre-half.

6. James McCarthy

I’d be recalling him. He’s my sitting player in front of the back four. He seems to be getting it back together after all his injuries and he’s playing every week now at Crystal Palace. I think he still has a lot to offer. You have to remember that James was one of our best players at the Euros in 2016. I’d be picking him for sure.

7. Jayson Molumby

This is the first of the major changes that I’d make. He’s the Ireland U-21 captain and has been doing brilliantly for Millwall, who he’s on loan with, but has just signed a new contract with Brighton. He’s had a big influence in Millwall’s challenge for a play-off place in the Championship and I’d be giving him his chance against Bulgaria.

8. Callum O’Dowda

He has featured in past Ireland teams but wasn’t given enough freedom. He offers that balance in midfield that we need. He’s a left footer and he’s full of energy. He’s very skilful too. He carries the ball, dribbles the ball and he’ll love to create chances. A good display against Bulgaria could help him nail down that position.

He’s got a lot to offer for Ireland.

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9. David McGoldrick

We need to stick with the Blades’ front man as our main centre forward. He’s done very well for us, especially in the last campaign. He doesn’t score as many goals as you’d like but what he offers in general play, like holding up the ball, is very good. I like that about him.

He gets the midfielders and the wide players involved, so I’d stick with him as our main target man up front.

10. Adam Idah

He’s broken through brilliantly by Norwich and has already scored a hat-trick for them in the FA Cup. He’s played for Stephen in the U-21’s as well and there’s so much potential there. I would love to see him get his opportunity up front.

11. Aaron Connolly

He’s burst onto the scene at Brighton and scored that great goal against Spurs in the Premier League. He already has two caps for Ireland and in the game against Georgia, when he came on with 10 minutes to go, he looked so lively in that brief period.

He even managed to have a couple of shots on goal. Like Adam Idah, he adds so much freshness up front.

Substitutes: Caoimhin Kelleher, Seamus Coleman, Lee O’Connor, Dara O’Shea, Conor Masterson, Jack Byrne, James McClean, Troy Parrott.

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What do you think?