Window of opportunity: Five winners and five losers from Ireland’s international run

Emmet Malone looks back on the performances of Stephen Kenny’s men over the past week

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu makes a save during the World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu makes a save during the World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Winners

Gavin Bazunu

The 19-year-old didn’t look like the finished article but then . . . he’s 19. Did pretty well overall in the two games he started and certainly fits in with the manager’s philosophy. When Darren Randolph and Caoimhín Kelleher return, it is hard not to imagine him being the third goalkeeper.

Dara O’Shea

Qatar’s Bassam Al-Rawi challenges Dara O’Shea during the international friendly match in Hungary. Photograph: Trenka Attila/PA Wire
Qatar’s Bassam Al-Rawi challenges Dara O’Shea during the international friendly match in Hungary. Photograph: Trenka Attila/PA Wire

Got three starts last year but his central role over the past 10 days dispelled any lingering suspicion that he had merely benefited from the coronavirus crises before Christmas. If he can build on his progress so far at club level looks set to be a mainstay for Stephen Kenny.

Josh Cullen

Dusan Tadic of Serbia is challenged by Josh Cullen during the World Cup qualifier in Belgrade. Photograph: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images
Dusan Tadic of Serbia is challenged by Josh Cullen during the World Cup qualifier in Belgrade. Photograph: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Had endured a couple of false starts but the Anderlecht move has clearly done him a lot of good and though he will rue the half-hearted tackle just before the Luxembourg goal and missed header in Hungary, he has advanced his cause considerably.

Jason Knight

Jason Knight in action during the friendly against Qatar. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Jason Knight in action during the friendly against Qatar. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Would have hoped to have fonder memories of his first senior start for Ireland but did okay on a personal level against Luxembourg and after coming on against Qatar. Has huge potential and is being helped to realise it by the amount of game time he is getting at Derby.

Alan Browne

Alan Browne in action during the World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade. Photograph: Nikola Krstic/Inpho
Alan Browne in action during the World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade. Photograph: Nikola Krstic/Inpho

The manager liked him already but Browne said before the Serbia game that he needed to step up at international level and he promptly did. The more subdued display back in Dublin underlined the need to achieve far greater consistency but we have all seen what he can do now.

Losers

Mark Travers

Mark Travers is beaten by Aleksandar Mitrovic’s lob during the World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade. Photograph: Novak Djurovic/PA Wire
Mark Travers is beaten by Aleksandar Mitrovic’s lob during the World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade. Photograph: Novak Djurovic/PA Wire

It is harsh on him but he seemed like a young goalkeeper not playing for his club in Serbia, where he was anxious throughout and was caught off his line pretty badly for one of Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goals. Needs to push on back in England.

Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy challenges Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Seeb. Photograph: Zsolt Czegledi/EPA
Shane Duffy challenges Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Seeb. Photograph: Zsolt Czegledi/EPA

The Derryman did okay against Qatar but it wasn’t entirely clear before the window whether even a dramatic loss of form and confidence at club level could lose him his place with Ireland and the manager set everyone straight on that.

Jeff Hendrick

Jeff Hendrick attempts a shot on goal during the friendly against Qatar in Hungary. Photograph: Trenka Attila/PA Wire
Jeff Hendrick attempts a shot on goal during the friendly against Qatar in Hungary. Photograph: Trenka Attila/PA Wire

The Dubliner featured in every minute of every group game of the Euro2020 campaign but suddenly looks a good deal more marginal with the emergence of serious rivals in midfield where he has struggled to consistency deliver for Ireland.

Aaron Connolly

Aaron Connolly is tackled by Aleksandar Mitrovic during the World Cup qualifier in Belgrade. Photograph: Nikola Krstic/Inpho
Aaron Connolly is tackled by Aleksandar Mitrovic during the World Cup qualifier in Belgrade. Photograph: Nikola Krstic/Inpho

Getting the penalty he should have had in Serbia might have changed the complexion of his past week or so but overall he endured another frustrating window with a quiet game in Belgrade followed by another injury and a premature return to his club.

Ryan Manning

Ryan Manning vies for the ball with Qatar’s Pedro Miguel Correia during the friendly in Hungary. Photograph: Peter Kohalmi/AFP via Getty Images
Ryan Manning vies for the ball with Qatar’s Pedro Miguel Correia during the friendly in Hungary. Photograph: Peter Kohalmi/AFP via Getty Images

Stephen Kenny acknowledged on Tuesday night that left back is something of a problem position with few enough stand out options but, unless there was an unpublicised fitness issue, restricting the Swansea defender to six minutes over three games was slightly damning.

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