As Martin O’Neill mulls over his next Republic of Ireland squad selection for the game against Turkey in March he may have some difficulty when it comes to identifying suitable options in the centre-forward department.
Recently retired Ireland striker Kevin Doyle described the lack of obvious candidates for the position as “worrying” and, when one looks at the most recent squad, his concerns appear to be well founded.
Indeed, the Boys in Green panel to face Denmark featured just three strikers and one of those players – Daryl Murphy – has since retired from international football. The other two in that squad were Shane Long, who is 31, and Scott Hogan, who has yet to make his debut.
Jonathan Walters was a regular under O’Neill, but the Burnley man has endured a series of injuries during the last year and, at 34, is the same age as both Murphy and Doyle – that is to say, he is at the wrong end of the spectrum.
Preston North End forward Sean Maguire has featured in recent panels, but is currently recovering from a nasty hamstring injury. Millwall’s as-yet-uncapped Aiden O’Brien is the other striker who has been included in recent squads.
The game against Turkey takes place in Antalya on March 23 – just over a month away – so the Ireland squad will be taking shape in O’Neill’s mind before he announces it in a couple of weeks. Lansdowne Roar takes a look at some of the players who have not made recent squads but who could offer something different in attack.
Joe Mason (Wolves)
Wolves forward Joe Mason was a regular for Ireland at youth level but has yet to feature at senior level. Now 26, he has been playing in the Championship for the guts of a decade, but has never hit the headlines as a prolific goal-scorer. Mason went out on loan to Burton Albion earlier in the season but has returned to table-topping Wolves and, interestingly, he has been linked with a move to MLS.
Michael Obafemi (Southampton)
It has become increasingly rare to see teenage talent in the senior Ireland squad, but O’Neill could make an exception for Southampton youngster Michael Obafemi. The 17-year-old has been prolific for the Saints’ U-18 and U-23 teams and recently made his Premier League debut against Tottenham. Obafemi is an Ireland U-19 international, but there have been reports that he is on the radar of both Nigeria and England, who he is also eligible to play for.
Cillian Sheridan (Jagiellonia Bialystok)
One of Irish football’s most well-travelled men, Cillian Sheridan has been in the international wilderness since 2010, but he is one of the few strikers available to Martin O’Neill who boasts experience of playing in the Europa League and Champions League. His journey has taken him to Scotland, Cyprus and he is now plying his trade in Poland’s Ekstraklasa with Jagiellonia Bialystok. He will be 29 by the time the friendly with Turkey takes place, but still has something to offer. Physically at least, his giant frame would make him a like-for-like replacement for Daryl Murphy.
Eoin Doyle (Oldham Athletic)
The Ireland squad is brimming with talent that came through the League of Ireland and Eoin Doyle could be another. A former Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers attacker, Doyle has experienced life in the Scottish Premiership, but the majority of his time has been spent in England’s lower leagues. In recent years he has featured in the Championship with Cardiff City and Preston North End, but he is not exactly one for the future considering that he will be 30 by the time Ireland play Turkey.
David McMillan (St Johnstone)
David McMillan was one of the best strikers in the League of Ireland in the past three seasons and his form in 2017 earned him a move to Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone. The 29-year-old scored five goals in 12 European appearances in the 2016-17 season and hit 21 goals in all competitions in his last campaign with the Lilywhites.