The Big Talking Points As Ireland Return To UEFA Nations League Action
RICE, RICE BABY
It’s Murphy’s Law that one of the biggest storylines in Irish football concerns someone who isn’t even there; London-born, but capped by Ireland right throughout the underage levels, Declan Rice’s decision on who he will commit to going forward is under the spotlight on both sides of the Irish Sea. Some have claimed it’s an unwelcome distraction from on-field matters, but it’s one that might not be resolved anytime soon!
While many would argue that Martin O’Neill should be focused on getting his own house in order, you imagine the Irish manager’s confidence is boosted by the possibility of both Christian Eriksen and Gareth Bale missing out. It’s not exaggeration to say the pair are the biggest stars in their respective sides – so if Ireland needed the football gods to give them a helping hand, it looks like prayers were answered!
Aviva Stadium was once something of a fortress; in qualifying for Euro 2016, the Irish were unbeaten on their own patch. It was a different story last time, though, with both Serbia and Denmark coming away with victories in Dublin. If Ireland are to have success – in the Nations League, or the forthcoming Euro 2020 campaign – then home form will be key, and a pair of back-to-back games at their Lansdowne Road base would be the perfect time to find it…
A PICTURE OF HEALTH
Fortunate timing saw some of the pressure on Ireland’s attacking options lifted, with both Shane Long and Sean Maguire returning to club action at the weekend. James McClean is also fit, and Harry Arter’s self-imposed exile is now over. It’s not all good news – Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady two of the frontliners who’ll be watching from the sidelines – but let’s look on the bright side, eh?!
ROY AND PEACE
While the WhatsApp wrangle with the aforementioned Arter seems to have been put to bed, there are still question marks over Ireland’s larger-than-life assistant manager – and if things don’t go their way there’s every chance Roy Keane’s position will be under further scrutiny. The controversial former captain is reliably divisive, and it may well be that he becomes a scapegoat should the team’s recent travails continue…
Stay on top of all the sporting action with Sky Sports – click here to find out more!