As we begin our build-up to Stephen Kenny’s squad announcement to the games against Latvia and France, we look at 5 dark horses who could find their way into the Irish setup.
With the likes of Will Smallbone, Ryan Manning and Mark Sykes hitting form, there will be inevitable calls for the trio who have seen their gametime in green limited. Finn Azaz is another player who has been tipped to make the transition from under-21 to senior level following his return from injury with Max O’Leary pushing for a goalkeeping spot having become Bristol City’s number 1.
Here is our list but please comment below to give the players you think could provide a shock callup!
Luke McNally (Burnley-On Loan at Coventry City)
With 3 clean sheets for Luke McNally since joining Coventry on loan from Burnley, the Enfield man is certainly staking a claim having already featured in a Championship team of the week. A contemporary centre-back who can play it out well from the back, McNally is the type of defender Stephen Kenny values and is striving in a back three at Coventry, Kenny’s preferred formation. The 23 year-old was tipped by us for a senior call-up this season and his form could earn him that honour.
Tom Cannon (Everton-On Loan at Preston Nort End)
Having made his Premier League debut for Everton already this season, Tom Cannon hit another milestone as he netted his first senior goal on loan with Preston. Compliments Troy Parrott well and looks a complete striker with his linkup play, direct running and finishing. The fact he is getting consistent games and showing so much ability already could see the Aintree born 20 year old bypass Jim Crawford’s under-21’s straight to the senior setup for March.
Luca Connell (Barnsley)
Something of a wonder kid at Bolton which triggered Celtic to snap up the talented midfielder, Luca Connell has shown just what a good player he is since moving to Barnsley last summer. Connell did receive a senior call-up under Mick McCarthy in 2019 but the Liverpudlian had to pull out due to injury. Despite only being 21, he looks like a seasoned pro as a holding midfielder and his sweet left peg has contributed to two goals and 5 assists this season. With absolute composure and an excellent deliver from set pieces, Connell already looks far too good for League 1.
Danny McNamara (Millwall)
Should perhaps be exceeding ‘dark horse’ status but Danny McNamara is unfortunate as so far that he has Seamus Coleman, Matt Doherty and the in form Mark Sykes and Cyrus Christie perhaps ahead of him in the right-back pecking order. Was linked with Fulham in January which is testament to his ability and at 24, looks increasingly like he will be Ireland’s first choice full back in the long term. Has been name checked by Kenny in the past and could sneak into the squad despite the depth the manager has in the position.
Sean McLoughlin (Hull City)
With 5 clean sheets in his last 7 games, Hull fan favourite Sean McLoughlin is in fine form after re-establishing himself as a starter before Christmas after and extended time on the bench. At 26, the former Cork City man who was previously linked with Liverpool may be a little down the pecking order. However, his form and the fact he could provide balance to the centre-back options being a left-footer could make him an attractive option for Stephen Kenny. McLoughlin has experience of playing in a back three and more recently has settled nicely in Hulls back four.
Connor Ronan (Colorado Rapids)
Many will feel that regular game time is what separated Connor Ronan from a regular Ireland spot and perhaps, even a starting place. Ronan will only have a couple of games in the MLS under his belt by the time Stephen Kenny names his squad but there is no doubting that he would add some much needed technical quality to midfield. Kenny is a huge fan of Ronan who turns 25 next week and may just find room for him in the squad despite the MLS season being so fresh.
Nick, The Green Machine Podcast