Saturday, April 13, 2024

Talking points as John O’Shea takes charge for Republic of Ireland v Belgium

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 Mar 2024


Interim boss John O’Shea will send the Republic of Ireland into friendly battle with Belgium on Saturday after being placed in temporary charge of the team he represented with such distinction.

The former Ireland defender has stepped into the shoes vacated by Stephen Kenny in November for the clash with FIFA’s fourth-ranked team and Switzerland’s visit to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the clash with the Belgians.

Who’s the boss?

Kenny’s departure in the wake of a desperately disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign left the Football Association of Ireland with a void to fill and, four months on, it remains unfilled. The FAI has promised an announcement in early April but, in the meantime, the 118-times-capped O’Shea has been handed an audition which could stand him in good stead for the future, if not this time around.

Headache number one

Southampton’s Gavin Bazunu established himself as Kenny’s first-choice goalkeeper after being thrown in at the deep end for a World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg in March 2021 at the age of 19. Of the 30 games Ireland have played since, Bazunu has started 20 and Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher 10, with 16 of the former’s appearances coming in 20 competitive fixtures. However, 25-year-old Kelleher, a two-time Carabao Cup winner, is currently playing his part in Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge as the injured Alisson Becker’s deputy to illustrate his quality and leave O’Shea with a decision to make.

Seamus it ever was

Seamus Coleman has not played for his country since March last year, but after working his way back from a knee injury he feared might end his career, is back in the squad and raring to go. At 35, the Everton full-back knows his days in the green shirt may be drawing to a close, but a man who has captained his country under successive managers remains committed to serving in whatever way he can.

Patience is a virtue

Sammie Szmodics will keep his fingers crossed as he edges ever close to a senior international debut. The 28-year-old Blackburn frontman has twice had to pull out of previous squads, but has returned in top form with 27 club goals to his name to date this season to eloquently stake his claim once again.

False dawn


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