It’s been a campaign filled with one-all draws and ended up in a playoff. Rinse. Repeat. In truth, I could have written this ratings pieces at the start of the qualification schedule.
But look, sometimes you need to humour yourself. While Mick McCarthy was always going to be testing patience in terms of football, his likeability also ensures he gets a slightly easier ride than Martin O’Neill, largely because Mick McCarthy is tolerable to listen to and doesn’t want to start an argument with everyone who questions him.
Whether it be Wales, Slovakia or Bosnia, we’re approaching this the same way. But this is solely about judging individual players rather than the campaign in general – that can, fortunately, live to die another day.
Darren Randolph – 7
Doesn’t put a foot wrong, to his credit. Notched a penalty save against the Swiss, looked comfortable playing out from the back against Denmark and the biggest tribute paid to him was the upset when it seemed like he might not make the final group game.
Seamus Coleman – 5
Should no longer be featuring in this XI ahead of Matt Doherty, and the armband probably saves him here. He’s still playing at a relatively high level, week in, week out – but there comes a point when you have to pick on form, and Doherty now offers more going forward. Coleman would not have been there to nod home last night.
Matt Doherty – 6
For as good as he was last night (did have a hand to play in the Danish goal), throughout the campaign, when he’s featured, he has both been underwhelming given the expectations attached to him – and been messed about due to positional rotation. He’s not a utility player, he’s a cornerstone.
Shane Duffy – 7
Just to confirm, nobody is getting more than a seven – and just to reaffirm, when you don’t complain about an Irish centre half at any stage of a qualifying campaign, you’re doing something very well. He has now taken over the mantle left by Richard Keogh as the big time player, combined with the goalscoring prowess of John O’Shea. I swear that’s a compliment.
Ciaran Clark – 6
You’d be unsure who you’d want as your first-choice backup centre-half, but I think Clark has done the most to convince given Richard Keogh’s off-field problems now hinder his international career going forward. Clark is playing every week at Newcastle and that’s a huge plus.
Richard Keogh – 6
Was first choice prior to his crash. Had performed well, but it’s still hard to see a future for him in the Irish playing setup now.
John Egan – 6
The best footballer of the lot, Egan’s doing very well at Sheffield United who have absolutely been the best surprise in this season’s Premier League. If he was Clark’s age, we’d all be looking for him to start. It’s a weird, backwards Irish narrative.
Enda Stevens – 6
Hasn’t always done himself justice, but when you operate in a back five at club level, it’s very hard to switch back to a four at international level. Spacing is totally different and that adjustment can hamper the things you do automatically week in, week out.
James McClean – 5
If we’re using an old Irish metric, McClean gets an eight. If we’re trying to be progressive, I don’t think there’s any chance McClean plays under Stephen Kenny – and the reason for that is certainly not due to a lack of commitment, rather to his lack of technical ability. There was a stage last night where Ireland played out brilliantly from the back, broke a press, and McClean passed the ball directly to a Danish midfielder.
Glenn Whelan – 6
He has no right to be as good as he is, even if that’s just a six – in terms of rating and a positional restriction. Almost definitely won’t be available for the next qualifying campaign, but his performances at this age have been commendable. Terrific servant.
Conor Hourihane – 7
Adds some form of dynamism to midfield, even if I’m not sure what that is. He’s very Villa, in that they all look like they can carry the ball, they all look like they can shoot, but they’re a half step too slow for the up-tempo desires of those in attendance. Still, a big addition.
Jeff Hendrick – 6
Ironically, if you go through his individual ratings, I’m not sure he ever got a six. He was too busy picking up 8s and 4s. While once considered the stability in the Irish midfield, he is now the will-he-won’t-he proposition.
Alan Browne – 6
Suffering a small bit from samesie-itis, Browne has rarely added to anything other than injecting pace into a game, which is the primary duty of a substitute, granted. Has looked better off the bench than when given a start but does similar things to Hourihane and for that reason, it’s hard to properly fit him in – as his slotting into random positions has exhibited.
Robbie Brady – 5
Barely played enough to be merited, but his set-piece delivery throughout his appearances left something to be desired. May have to hand duties over to Hourihane now.
Sean Maguire – 5
Without ever really disappointing, he’s just struggled to get into games when given the chance. He now faces an uphill battle to compete with Robinson, McGoldrick, Connolly – and even Hogan, who McCarthy loves. May benefit from Stephen Kenny, though.
Callum Robinson – 7
He’s somewhere between a six and a seven, but his link-up play against the Swiss at home was enough for me to warrant handing him the bigger score. A lot of this is down to his energy, but more of it is down to the fact he seemed the spark against a top-end nation when we generally don’t have one.
Scott Hogan – 5
Again, playing time was limited and he’s really only being called upon because of a McCarthy fetish. Hilariously enough, he’s now going to be managed at club level by Michael O’Neill.
David McGoldrick – 8
Arguably Ireland’s player of the campaign, McGoldrick’s hold-up play is exemplary and one of the only truly top-tier skillsets we possess in the squad. The argument can easily be that he’s a one-goal-in-every-five-games kind of striker, and I accept that, but nobody is more central to how we play – and that’s enough to hand him to marks among his peers.
Aaron Connolly – 6
His brief spells with the senior side saw him offer genuine threat in behind, but the build-up to utilise him was off. Graham Potter is one of the most progressive coaches in England and Connolly is simply lost in transition right now. He should have scored against Georgia, but failed to.