Euro 2016: Republic of Ireland’s report card
A look at how each member of Martin O’Neill’s squad fared during the Euros
Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad: report card
Darren Randolph: Darren Randolph was thrown in at the deep end when he came on to replace the injured Shay Given during the qualification win over Germany, and he has gone from strength to strength since that famous night at the Aviva Stadium. He was solid throughout the tournament, and produced a brilliant display in the last-16 defeat to France. Still only 29, Ireland have their number one for the foreseeable future.
Shay Given: A brilliant international career which began against Russia in 1996 looks to have run its course 20-years later. With Randolph staying free of injury, Given didn’t have a look in during the tournament in France and at 40-years-old is unlikely to prise the number one jersey back. Retirement is almost certain for one of Irish football’s greatest servants.
Kieren Westwood: Westwood was a passenger in France and like Given never had the opportunity to oust Randolph from between the sticks. But with Given set to hang up his gloves Westwood can cement his spot as Ireland’s back-up ‘keeper, and if he continues the form he showed for Sheffield Wednesday last season can be a serious challenger to Randolph.
Cyrus Christie: Christie was one of just two outfield players who didn’t get any minutes in France, and this was down to the fine form of Seamus Coleman. Coleman, the new captain, is one of Ireland’s best players and virtually undroppable, meaning Christie’s opportunities will always be limited. But, he is relatively new to the Ireland set-up and O’Neill should retain him as a member of the squad.
John O’Shea: Another of the old guard set to retire after Ireland’s exit. He was good in the opening game against Sweden but struggled against Belgium and was dropped. His experience would have been useful as the Irish defence fell apart in the second half against France, and he helped shore things up somewhat after Shane Duffy’s red card. Like Given he has been a fine servant but you imagine now will be the time to say goodbye.
Richard Keogh: The Derby County centre-half could perhaps count himself unlucky not to be selected in the opening games against Sweden and Belgium and O’Neill’s decision to recall him for Italy was justified. Keogh was excellent against the Azzurri and in the first half against France, but will have to shoulder some responsibility for the way the back four fell apart after the break in Lyon. With O’Shea likely to bid adieu to the international stage Keogh will now be O’Neill’s senior centre-half - despite having nearly a hundred fewer caps than the Waterford man.
Ciaran Clark: Gave a decent showing against Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic but was found out against Belgium - although nobody really covered themselves in glory in Bordeaux. Clark is likely to be competing with Shane Duffy for the spot alongside Keogh at the heart of Ireland’s defence. It will be interesting to see if he stays at Aston Villa or can force a return to the Premier League for next season.
Shane Duffy: Duffy delivered a towering performance against Italy but then had a second half to forget against France as his inexperience showed. He was at fault for Antoine Griezmann’s second goal and received a red card minutes later for bringing down the same man when he was through on goal. But Duffy deserves to be persisted with, and has been largely impressive so far in his fledgling international career. He also offers a real aerial threat going forward.
Seamus Coleman: Coleman was one of Ireland’s best performers in every game and is one of the few Irish players who could stake a claim for a place in some of the tournament’s best teams. He has come up against some of the continent’s finest attacking talents in France - Eden Hazard and Dimitri Payet spring to mind - and more than held his own. One of the first names on O’Neill’s team sheet and crucial to the nation’s hopes going forward.
Stephen Ward: With O’Neill opting to use Robbie Brady in a more advanced role after the Sweden game, Ward found himself starting the next three fixtures. He struggled against Belgium, was improved against Italy and solid in the first half against the French. If Brady continues to operate further forward he is likely to retain his place, but you can’t help but feel he is a weak link in the side.
James McCarthy: McCarthy was a real source of frustration as he disappeared into the shadows in the defeat to Belgium but bounced back in style. He was quietly brilliant against Italy, operating at the bottom of the midfield, sweeping up and keeping Ireland ticking. He seems to thrive when he is given that role for himself rather than playing alongside Glenn Whelan. He eventually became overrun against France but if he can nail down this defined midfield role he should flourish.
Glenn Whelan: Whelan is likely to be one of the real casualties of Ireland’s Euro 2016 adventure. He started in the games against Sweden and Belgium but wasn’t seen again after the defeat in Bordeaux. His performance in the Belgium game was laboured and cumbersome as Ireland looked sluggish off the ball and struggled to retain it when in possession. McCarthy looks a better player when Whelan isn’t next to him, and that could prove to be terminal to Whelan’s future international hopes.
Aiden McGeady: It’s hard not to get the feeling McGeady is on borrowed time at international level. Slated for his performance in the final warm-up fixture against Belarus he had a sporadic involvement at the Euros, coming on as a substitute in the three group games. And he had little impact on each occasion, bar his involvement in the build-up to Robbie Brady’s famous goal. He will need to find himself a new club next season and rediscover some of his old flair if he wants to stay a part of O’Neill’s plans.
Jeff Hendrick: Arguably Ireland’s success story of the Euros. Hendrick grew into the tournament and produced probably the best display of his international career against Italy. During the first half of that game there was a point where Ireland had enjoyed 61 per cent of the possession, and this was largely down to Hendrick dropping and linking play. He’s also a threat going forward and nearly scored two screamers - one against Sweden and one against the Azzurri. Part of a core of younger players O’Neill will build his plans around.
James McClean: Another of the heroes from Lille. McClean started on the bench against Sweden and Belgium but grasped his chance against Italy. He was sacrificed against France after Duffy’s red card, but showed more than enough throughout the tournament to suggest he should be a regular starter. As a winger he isn’t particularly skilful or tricky but he is strong and quick and a real handful on the left. Tireless off the ball, his lung-busting runs from deep are key in helping Ireland relieve pressure when they are under the cosh.
David Meyler: Along with Cyrus Christie, Meyler was one of the only two outfield players who didn’t get a kick during the whole tournament, and there was never much suggestion he was going to. He is still only 27 and will be back in the Premier League with Hull City next season so it is too early to write his chances off, but Ireland look to have a settled midfield taking shape and Meyler is unlikely to disrupt it.
Stephen Quinn: There were calls for Quinn to be brought into the starting line-up for the Italy fixture but in the end his involvement at Euro 2016 was limited to a cameo appearance off the bench instead. Quinn will likely continue to be a part of Ireland’s future squads but he looks further away from the first team now than he did at the start of the tournament.
Robbie Brady: The hero against Italy, Brady has emerged from the European Championships as the new poster boy of Irish football. It is likely O’Neill will now continue to play him further forward rather than returning to his role at left back. His set-pieces remain key for Ireland, he has proved he is able to compete in midfield and is one of his side’s tidiest players on the ball. He played every minute of Ireland’s tournament and along with Hendrick and McCarthy will be a cornerstone in the middle heading into the World Cup qualifiers.
Wes Hoolahan: What might have been? In ideal world Ireland would be building their next side around Hoolahan but he is now 34 and unlikely to make it to another major tournament. But while it has been brief, it has been fun - Hoolahan’s stunning goal against Sweden and cross for Brady’s winner against Italy were two of the moments of Ireland’s tournament. Hoolahan definitely has a lot to offer and will remain part of O’Neill’s plans - but he won’t be around for as long as Ireland need him to be.
Robbie Keane: Keane might hold off on announcing his international retirement so he can have one last send-off - and goal - but it is just around the corner now. Ireland’s record goalscorer made two brief appearances off the bench in France but it is clear he is finished at the top level, as perhaps has been for some time. It was always worth keeping Keane around because of his dead-eyed ability in front of goal, but he’s now too far off the pace to give himself the types of chances he used to devour. He has been another brilliant servant and has enjoyed career to be proud of.
Jon Walters: The Achilles injury he picked up before the tournament meant Walters was never really able to get going in France. He started against Sweden but it was clear from the outset he wasn’t properly fit and he struggled to make any real impact. He will and should return to O’Neill’s starting line-up when he returns to full fitness but Ireland have shown they can cope and deliver big performances without the Stoke City forward.
Daryl Murphy: Ireland’s inability to hold the ball up and retain possession was critical to their hopes against Belgium and Murphy added a different dimension to their game when he started against Italy. He is yet to score in an Ireland shirt despite picking up more than 20 caps but it was his physicality which saw him picked in France, and he married his strength up front with a few neat touches. He is likely to remain a part of O’Neill’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers but at 33 won’t be around for much longer.
Shane Long: Long returns from France without a goal to his name but his failure to find the back of the net doesn’t really tell the full story of his tournament. It was a real slog for Long at times, particularly against Belgium, and he had to put in some serious yards off the ball. It is telling though how scared defenders are of his pace, and he gave Leonardo Bonucci - arguably the best centre-half on display at the tournament - his toughest assignment in the group stages. Long might return from the tournament disappointed but his importance to the team cannot be overstated.