Jack Byrne included once more in Ireland squad for crucial Georgia and Switzerland clashes

Thu, Oct 03 2019

Byrne bagged an assist for Kevin Long and set another in motion for James Collins on his senior debut against Bulgaria last month. Credit: Al Robinson (ETPhotos)

Jack Byrne has retained his place in Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland squad for this month’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers away to Georgia and Switzerland.

The Shamrock Rovers playmaker will have the opportunity to push for a competitive debut after a star turn from the bench in the 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria last month.

Byrne set up Kevin Long to put Ireland in front late on before chipping a perfect pass into the path of Enda Stevens to tee up James Collins for the clincher.

He is joined in the squad by Blackburn Rovers duo Darragh Lenihan and Greg Cunningham, the former called up for the first time in McCarthy’s tenure.

Cunningham will provide additional cover at left-back as Stevens will miss the game in Tbilisi with suspension, though Matt Doherty is also an option.

With Richard Keogh set to miss more than a year with a cruciate ligament injury, and Shane Duffy doubtful, Lenihan will have a chance to stake his claim for the centre-half berth.

Duffy was taken off injured during Brighton’s Caraboa Cup defeat to Aston Villa last month but McCarthy hasn’t given up hope that he may be passed fit.

“Terry Connor has been to watch Darragh and Greg play for Blackburn and they have shown him they will be good additions for this squad,” McCarthy told FAI.ie

“Enda Stevens is suspended for the game in Tbilisi against Georgia and Greg is one of the most experienced left-backs available to us. He was with us in the summer and he knows what we want.

“We’ve watched Darragh a number of times and Terry and the other scouts like his footballing ability. He has been in and around the squad before so I look forward to working with him.”

David McGoldrick also has a slim chance of involvement as he recovers from injury, and McCarthy hasn’t ruled out bringing additional players into the fold.

“I won’t even start thinking about the team for that game until the players turn up at the Hotel on Sunday and I see who we have available,” he said.

“We have injuries and suspensions and I know that better than anyone. But there’s nothing I can do about them. It happens in football.

“That’s why we changed almost the entire team for the Bulgaria game last month and look how well the players who came in like Josh, Alan Browne, John Egan and Kevin Long did.

“They put their hands up for selection and gave me something to think about. Now it’s time to think about them for Georgia.

“I look forward to getting back on the training ground on Monday and starting the countdown to these two massive games in earnest.”

Republic of Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Mark Travers (Bournemouth), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion, on loan from Manchester United)

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Kevin Long (Burnley), John Egan (Sheffield United), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Greg Cunningham (Blackburn Rovers), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United).

Midfielders: Alan Browne (Preston North End), Josh Cullen (Charlton Athletic, on loan from West Ham United), Glenn Whelan (Heart of Midlothian), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), James McClean (Stoke City), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)

Forwards: James Collins (Luton Town), Sean Maguire (Preston North End), Callum Robinson (Sheffield United), Alan Judge (Ipswich Town), Scott Hogan (Stoke City, on loan from Aston Villa).