With Ireland’s two-legged World Cup play-off against Denmark fast approaching Eddie Ryan takes a look at Ireland’s options up front and just how effective each one can be.
6. Aiden O’Brien (Millwall)
Aiden O’Brien of Millwall shares his name with the Tipperary master of the horse but is not a name Irish fans will be all too familiar with. Born in London, O’Brien has been prolific at under-21 level for the Boys in Green.
While he signed for the London club in 2010 he has mainly been on loan since with spells at places like Staines Town, Hayes & Yeading, Crawley Town, Aldershot and Torquay United.
He signed a new deal with Millwall in 2014 and was very highly-regarded by former Lions boss Ian Holloway. In September 2017 he was called up to the Ireland squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Wales.
O’Brien has scored five times for the under-21s and is in second place on the all-time goalscorers list at that grade, just two behind Robbie Brady.
One for the future, he is there purely to make up the numbers at present and while Martin O’Neill has been known to spring the odd surprise with his team selections, it is quite a stretch to say O’Brien will even make the match day squad.
5. Scott Hogan (Aston Villa)
The Aston Villa number nine has been courted by Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane for some time and was part of the squad for the Wales/Moldova double-header.
Hogan had been called up by Ireland before at U-21 level in February 2014 (but did not feature in the match) and is eligible to play for Ireland as he has two Irish grandparents.
Hogan’s showed brilliant form for Brentford last term, notching 13 goals in an 18-match spell, including a hat-trick against Preston North End, which led to him winning the September Championship Player of the Month award last season.
Hogan joined Aston Villa on the 31st January 2017 on a four-and-half-year deal. He has struggled to nail down a starting berth, the goals have dried up and he is unlikely to feature in either leg.
4. David McGoldrick (Ipswich Town)
Nottingham-born David McGoldrick was encouraged to play for the Boys in Green by Ipswich manager and former Republic of Ireland stalwart Mick McCarthy.
He chose Ireland over Gordon Strachan’s Scotland, making his debut for Ireland in a 4–1 win over the United States on the 18th ofNovember. He impressed on the night setting up goals for Anthony Pilkington and Robbie Brady.
He has had a frustrating time with injuries but is a player who has shown glimpses of real quality. He is still a bit down the pecking order and his lack of game time in the green shirt will mean he is unlikely to be adding to his caps tally in either Copenhagen or Dublin.
3. Shane Long (Southampton)
Woefully out of scoring form at club and international level, he has never been prolific in front of goal. He once went on a run of 23 games for Southampton without finding the net.
A player more valued for his honesty and effort, he is a handful for defenders and suits the system O’Neill employs, often ploughing a lone furrow up front.
Missed a couple of sitters against Moldova and his wonder strike against the world champions Germany seems lightyears away now.
Long missed the Welsh match through injury and despite calls for his exclusion could well lead the line in Copenhagen.
2. Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest)
Murphy is the top scoring Irish striker this season at club level with six for Nottingham Forest. He has a proven pedigree at Championship level, having been the division’s top scorer in the 2013/14 season with 27 goals.
He is now in the winter of his career but has found a new lease of life under O’Neill, netting crucial goals in Serbia and against Moldova (two).
Made the hard yards in Cardiff and could feature with Long in Copenhagen, if O’Neill is feeling adventurous. A real aerial threat, he is tough and uncompromising and determined to belatedly make up for his lost years in the green shirt.
1. Sean Maguire (Preston North End)
Top of the pile. He has taken his game to a whole new level at Preston. Described as unmarkable by his former Cork City boss John Caulfield, he is in the form of his life.
He combines intelligent movement with an eye for goal and after a stuttering start to his career he caught fire on Leeside scoring 38 league goals in two seasons.
While some felt he would be the Shane Long ‘lite’ version, Maguire has won over his last remaining doubters by lighting up the Championship.
He is now a realistic option for O’Neill and despite his lack of big game experience at international level, he could well be the ace in the Irish striking pack.
Eddie Ryan, Pundit Arena