The XI Stephen Kenny must pick to save his job against the Netherlands
It's do or die for the Ireland manager ahead of the trickiest of double-headers.
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny is staring head on at what could be his last international window at the helm of the Boys in Green.
According to various reports, the outcome of that meeting saw the verdict reached that should Kenny fail to claim at least two points from Ireland's fixtures against the Netherlands and France, then he would be relieved of his duties.
With a number of injury concerns heading into Thursday night's clash against the Dutch at the Aviva Stadium, this is the XI the former Dundalk boss needs to pick to save his job:
The XI Stephen Kenny must pick v the Netherlands:
1. Caoimhin Kelleher:
Ireland's propensity to concede from long-range is a real concern, particularly facing off against two sides in the Netherlands and France who possess such a wealth of attacking talent. Gavin Bazunu has previously shone under Kenny, but fresh off the back of conceding a concerning five goals for Southampton means that it may be time to see what the Liverpool shot-stopper can bring to the table.
2. Alan Browne:
With Matt Doherty's ridiculous suspension still in place from his red card versus Greece, alongside skipper Seamus Coleman's injury absence, Ireland are light at right wing-back. Festy Ebosele has been playing regularly in Serie A for Udinese, but with the backline already so young, Kenny may opt for the experience of Preston midfielder Alan Browne, who has dutifully deputised in the role before.
3. Ryan Manning:
Perhaps this managerial team's version of the Martin O'Neill/ Wes Hoolohan debate, Manning has been overlooked time and again at international level despite his fine form in the Championship. Having secured a move to Southampton in the off-season, and with James McClean now plying his trade in League 2, it's time for Manning to be given the opportunity to impress at left wing-back.
4. Dara O'Shea:
One of Ireland's most consistent performers since coming in to make his debut in 2020, the Dublin man earned himself a Premier League move to Vincent Kompany's Burnley over the summer. Comfortable in build-up and resolute in defence, there is a reason why O'Shea is one of Ireland's few regular Premier League starters.
5. Nathan Collins:
Another one of Ireland's rare Premier League starters, Collins grabbed an assist for Brentford in their 2-2 draw with Bournemouth at the weekend. Already a talismanic figure at the heart of the Irish backline, there is no other option than to pick the 22-year-old.
6. Andrew Omobamidele:
Fresh off the back of securing a deadline day move to Nottingham Forest, Omobamidele was a late addition to Kenny's squad following an injury to Sheffield United's John Egan. Like O'Shea and Collins, he possesses a superb range of passing, and would be the more adventurous selection over veteran Shane Duffy.
7. Josh Cullen:
Ireland's most technically assured midfielder, Cullen is the only option at the base of the Irish midfield. Acting as the launchpad for so much of Ireland's attacks, the Burnley man has been ever-present since Stephen Kenny took the reigns in 2020.
8. Jayson Molumby:
Ireland's man-of-the-match in the reverse fixture against France back in March, the West Brom player makes up for Josh Cullen's lack of athleticism in midfield. All action and running from first minute till last, Molumby and Cullen have formed a decent pairing in recent outings.
9. Will Smallbone:
Bringing the creativity to this Ireland side, Smallbone is tasked with feeding the prodigal Evan Ferguson with enough goal-scoring opportunities to make a difference. Given that Kenny rarely deploys out-and-out wingers, the Southampton player will be burdened even further as Ireland look for an attacking spark.
10. Evan Ferguson:
First name on the team sheet, and still just 18 years of age. What can be said that hasn't already about the Brighton forward. Having just notched his first Premier League hat-trick, the stage couldn't be bigger as he looks to make his mark on the international scene too.
11: Aaron Connolly:
With Michael Obafemi out injured with a torn hamstring, and Chiedozie Ogbene failing to gain any meaningful minutes at Luton, Stephen Kenny should opt to reintegrate the frozen-out figure of Hull City's Aaron Connolly. Scoring three goals in five games for the Tigers so far this season, it appears the 23-year-old may finally have rekindled the form that saw him burst onto the scene for Brighton before the pandemic.
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