Ireland’s World Cup play-off against Denmark is fast approaching with eyes fixed firmly on Irish players’ performances on the domestic front.
Many of Martin O’Neill’s charges are already enjoying fruitful seasons so far with some striking some much needed form just in time.
We examine Ireland’s five form players ahead of the play-off against Christian Erikson and co.
5. Shane Duffy
There were some momentary fears that Ireland’s start from that night in Cardiff could miss the Denmark ties after a hamstring injury. He recovered quickly to put in an exceptional performance against West Ham, however.
Looked assured against Arsenal despite the Seagulls going down 2-0 and is beginning to look like a top flight defender after a slow start. Duffy’s partner Ciaran Clark has been dropped by Newcastle despite hardly putting a foot wrong this season so Duffy’s sharpness will be key to shutting out the Danes.
4. Callum O’Dowda
O’Neill saw O’Dowda’s potential a long time ago but the Bristol City youngster only made his first competitive start against Moldova. Has that bit of quality on the ball not many of his Irish teammates posses and has enjoyed a fruitful October.
A stunning EFL Cup goal against Premier League side Crystal Place not to mention two assists against Sunderland will have the winger full of confidence at the perfect time. After being used mainly as an impact sub by City, O’Dowda finally looks to be a regular starter and could light up the Championship as well as the international stage.
3. Matt Doherty
Arguably Ireland’s most in-form player at the moment. It is bewildering how Doherty has yet to have earned an international cap. Has failed to make the cut for the last few Ireland squads despite being quite even ability wise to Seamus Coleman’s understudy Cyrus Christie.
Doherty is nowhere near as fast as the Boro man but his dangerous overlapping and superior delivery would make him a potentially lethal weapon for his country. Could very well be a Premier League player next season and is thriving as a wing-back for high flying Wolves.
2. Sean Maguire
Has taken to life in Preston like a duck to water with four league goals and three assists already this season. What makes these stats even more impressive is the fact Maguire has been playing in a slightly wider position.
Made his debut against Moldova with little time to shine but looked eager to get on the ball and had a couple of deliveries come his way. Arguably Ireland’s best available striker in terms of mobility and dribbling ability, not to mention positional awareness. Finally has the international cap to kick start his Ireland career and a start may not be out of the question against Denmark given his momentum.
1. Stephen Ward
One of the few Premier League regulars in the squad, Stephen Ward is continuing to improve under Sean Dyche following years of scrutiny. Looks a lot more solid defensively and adventurous in attack and is striking up a solid bond with Robbie Brady.
Despite Matt Doherty and Enda Stevens’ form this season, Ward seems nailed on to be Ireland’s first-choice left-back for the foreseeable future and is earning the right to do so. Has gone about his business quietly in the Premier League and the World Cup qualifiers but his form this season is something to be cheerful about before the play-off.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena