Ireland’s Callum Robinson has been sidelined by Covid-19

The West Brom striker was set to lead the line at Estádio Algarve next Wednesday

West Bromwich Albion’s Callum Robinson has tested positive for Covid-19. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

West Bromwich Albion’s Callum Robinson has tested positive for Covid-19. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

 

On the eve of Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny finally naming a healthy squad for quickfire World Cup qualifiers against Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia, Callum Robinson has been sidelined by Covid-19.

The West Bromwich Albion striker was set to lead the line at Estádio Algarve next Wednesday, having scored three goals in four Championship starts, but luck has not been a feature of Kenny’s time in charge.

The final hurdle before the squad links up is a full round of English club fixtures on Saturday. All going well, Kenny can avoid picking teams based on reputation. There should be some actual selection calls, starting at goalkeeper and through the spine of a team that aims to deny Cristiano Ronaldo a world record 110th international goal.

Unless the Ballon D’or collector’s arm injury, suffered at Juventus training, takes him out of the equation.

Right now, Kenny has enough options to shelve blind loyalty to players like Darren Randolph, who at 34 and with 50 caps is nowhere near the West Ham team. Even Caoimhín Kelleher’s spectacular second half in Budapest last June is diluted by his fixture on the Liverpool bench.

The Cork goalkeeper may have signed a long term deal to stay at Anfield but Kenny’s first choice appears to be 19 year-old Gavin Bazunu, following a string of exceptional saves since joining League One club Portsmouth on loan from Manchester City.

Randolph would miss out entirely if Kenny rewards Mark Travers for two clean sheets while playing all of Bournemouth’s 450 minutes since the Championship returned.

The Ireland manager has been doing the rounds of late, with social media capturing him talking pitch side to goal scorer Shane Duffy and the goalless Aaron Connolly after Brighton Hove & Albion’s 2-0 win over Watford last Saturday.

Duffy’s Premier League revival, after a miserable loan spell at Celtic, should boost squad morale - such is the Derry man’s standing amongst his peers - but centre half options are plentiful, whether Kenny reverts to a flat back four or the three centre halves he used against Hungary.

Options

Dara O’Shea has been an ever present for West Brom, wading forward to nab two goals in their push to instantly return to the Premier League. John Egan is leading Sheffield United through a tough opening four matches, also in the English second tier, while Andrew Omobamdiele at Norwich City and Nathan Collins at Burnley are honing in on Premier League debuts.

Enda Stevens is the only unavailable defender, so Swansea City left back Ryan Manning could feature or perhaps Liam Scales’ imminent move from Shamrock Rovers to Celtic will prompt Kenny to promote another home based player.

Ireland captain Seamus Coleman should have three Everton starts under his belt when winning his 60th cap in Portugal. In contrast, Matt Doherty cannot dislodge former England under-21 Japhet Tanganga at Tottenham Hotspur.

Gavin Kilkenny might be the newest face in the squad having excelled for Bournemouth under the guidance of Scott Parker. It is a stretch to presume that the 21 year-old Dubliner can fill the void created by Derby County manager Wayne Rooney’s training ground tackle on Jason Knight but Kilkenny’s form has been consistent.

Still only 20, Knight was a certain starter in midfield but his ankle is not expected to heal before 25,000 fans return to the Aviva stadium for the Azerbaijan and Serbia games.

Holding midfield remains a live issue. Josh Cullen is an ever present for Anderlecht this season but the same cannot be said for Conor Hourihane at Aston Villa or Jayson Molumby at Brighton. Preston North End captain Alan Browne is dealing with a Covid-related issue, which could impact his availability, while Harry Arter cannot get a look in at Nottingham Forest under Chris Hughton.

Rotherham United’s Chiedozie Ogbene - the first Nigerian born Irish international - suffered a hamstring strain last weekend but the evergreen James McClean’s return to Wigan Athletic was marked by a goal in the win over Charlton Athletic.

Adam Idah, despite a goal scoring preseason, cannot command a start at Norwich City, same goes for Shane Long and Michael Obafemi at Southampton, but Kenny probably plans to unleash a front two of Troy Parrott and Connolly come the Lansdowne nights.

Anthony Scully cannot stop scoring for Lincoln City, Aiden O’Brien has been equally prolific for Sunderland and James Collins is starting up front for Cardiff City, so all three would be disappointed if overlooked.

Sixteen year olds are of little use to Kenny next month, but Evan Ferguson’s debut for Brighton and Inter Milan signing Kevin Zefi to a three-year deal shows that genuine talent exists beneath the surface of Irish football.

Six qualifiers and another Qatar friendly over the next 10 weeks, ending with a revenge mission to Luxembourg on November 14th, should leave nobody in any doubt about what bobs above the waves.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.