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Striking options for Ireland's trip to the rock

Mon, Mar 18 2019

James Collins and David McGoldrick Credit: Macdara Ferris (ETPhotos)

Mick McCarthy has somewhat limited options to choose from up front for the upcoming game against Gibraltar.

All the strikers in the Ireland squad will be keen to get in the Republic of Ireland side when the Boys in Green take on the team from the rock on Saturday.

Back in 2015, when Ireland played Gibraltar in Faro, Shane Long was on the scoresheet with Robbie Keane bagging a hattrick. Keane is now part of Mick McCarthy’s managerial team and was out on the pitch on Monday helping take training with McCarthy.

Players like Jon Walters, Ronan Curtis and Michael Obafemi are not available for Saturday’s game due to injury. Seani Maguire sat out training on Monday as part of Preston’s plan to manage the strikers fitness but should be okay for this weekend's game.

Shane Long is available once again but there may be opportunities for two other strikers in the squad who are experienced in the club game but not so at international level.

Luton Town's James Collins got his first call up for the Ireland squad this month while David McGoldrick got a recall after a difficult season and a half.

“I haven’t been in the (Ireland) squad for 18 months,” said McGoldrick who is playing well with Sheffield United at the moment. “I’d a few injuries. Loss of form, I wasn’t scoring and that is how I found myself out of the squad.

“I was out of contract and there weren’t many clubs who wanted to take me. I went on trial at Sheffield United and I’m back to playing my best now. I’ve had a good successful season with United and I’m delighted to be back in the squad.

“I’m enjoying playing my football again. Mick (McCarthy) is a great fit for anyone. He is a great manager and a top man.” 

McGoldrick’s only competitive appearance for Ireland was late in the game in Vienna in November 2016 with the Boys in Green hanging on for the 1-0 win. The expectation is that it won’t be that type of game in Gibraltar.

“It was a long 12 minutes,” recalled McGoldrick. “Jesus, I was chasing the ball against Austria and I don’t think I got a touch of the ball!” 

Having dropped out of the reckoning at Ireland and at an age of 31, did he feel the opportunity to get more game time with Ireland had passed?

“Daryl Murphy is still playing and he is about 45!” joked McGoldrick. “I knew there was hope I could get a game. I feel fresh and positive. I’m buzzing to be back.

“Mick knows all about me. I worked under him for five and a half years. I know what I can give. I know I can score goals and get assists. I’m always confident (about starting). If he picks me, I’ll be relaxed.”

28-year-old James Collins was named in Mick McCarthy’s large provisional squad and admitted that “I didn’t get my hopes up too much as I knew the provisional squad would be cut. When the news came through on Thursday (for the 23 man squad), I was delighted. It is a real honour. I’m fortunate that the gaffer has given me my chance.

“I was nervous meeting the boys today but they have been great. I know a few of them from the under-21s."

He has scored 20 goals this season for Luton, helping them to a position where they now lead League One. 

“It is good to be scoring goals at whatever level you are at. If I get any minutes and the chance comes, I’m quietly confident I can score goals.”