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World Cup playoffs: Ireland player profiles

Martin O’Neill’s likely starting line-up for Saturday’s crunch trip to Copenhagen

James McClean in action for West Brom. The winger has been Ireland’s key player durnig the qualification campaign. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

23 Darren Randolph
Club:
Middlesbrough
Caps: 26

Randolph has been pretty much faultless throughout the qualification campaign and is Ireland’s undoubted number one. Having a settled centre-half partnership playing in front of him has been beneficial.

Darren Randolph has cemented his place as Ireland’s number one. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

2 Cyrus Christie
Club: Middlesbrough
Caps: 15

While he has his limitations Christie has ensured the absence of Seamus Coleman hasn’t been felt quite as keenly as expected. He doesn’t provide the attacking thrust of his injured skipper but has been a more than dependable replacement.

23 Shane Duffy
Club: Brighton & Hove Albion
Caps: 15

A centre-half in the old fashioned mould, Duffy is Ireland’s biggest presence in the air both at the back and going forward. Has flourished for Brighton in the Premier League and is now Ireland’s first choice centre-back.

Shane Duffy has been impressive for Brighton since their promotion to the Premier League. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

3 Ciaran Clark
Club: Newcastle United
Caps: 28

A calm head, Clark reads the game well and sweeps up in an understated fashion. The Newcastle defender is a perfect foil for the all-action Duffy, and the two of them have provided Ireland with a solid, dependable partnership.

17 Stephen Ward
Club: Burnley
Caps: 47

Ward can be frustrating at times - often too easily caught on the outside and with his distribution sometimes wanting - but he has really grown into the qualification campaign. A regular for Martin O’Neill and Sean Dyche, he must be doing something right.

Stephen Ward in action for Burnley. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

22 Harry Arter
Club: Bournemouth
Caps: 9

Neat and tidy, Ireland’s ball retention is often better with Arter in the middle. The Bournemouth man also has a bit of bite about him, and is an indutrious presence in a sometimes stagnant midfield.

6 Glenn Whelan
Club: Aston Villa
Caps: 83

David Meyler’s suspension opens the door for the Aston Villa midfielder to come back into the side. Can sometimes slow Ireland down but should benefit from having plenty of running alongside him in midfield.

13 Jeff Hendrick
Club: Burnley
Caps: 36

Showed his value to the side when creating James McClean’s winner in Cardiff. Has been in fine form for Burnley and Ireland will need his class and craft against the Danes.

Jeff Hendrick celebrates a late winner for Burnley aganist Newcastle United. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty

10 Robbie Brady
Club: Burnley
Caps: 37

Ireland are unlikely to see much of the ball in Copenhagen so Brady’s set-piece prowess will be vital. When Ireland do have the ball, he can keep things ticking along with Hendrick and Arter.

11 James McClean
Club: West Bromwich Albion
Caps: 55

Ireland’s key man and the player of the qualification campaign so far. His tireless running will be key and with him O’Neill’s side are always a real threat on the break.

8 Daryl Murphy
Club: Nottingham Forest
Caps: 30

Murphy has been rejuvenated since joining Nottingham Forest and at 34-years-old is in the international form of his life. A physical presence, his hold up play will be key in helping Ireland get on the front foot.

James McClean in action for West Brom. The winger has been Ireland’s key player durnig the qualification campaign. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters