Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny recently joined fans during a virtual Ireland supporters’ event.
It’s always commendable to see a manager engage freely with fans and approach it with a candid nature.
During his appearance, Kenny answered numerous questions about key issues surrounding the Ireland squad during a Q&A.
Some of his answers provided fans with some clarity heading into our upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.
Kenny stated that David McGoldrick won’t be returning. Plus, both Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty can be accommodated in the same team.
He was also very complimentary of players like Josh Cullen and Gavin Bazunu.
Plus, if we are to take his comments on face value players like Aiden McGeady, Lee O’Connor, Liam Delap, and John Joe Patrick Finn could find themselves in and around the Ireland squad, sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news surrounding the state of the Republic of Ireland team heading into our vital games later this month.
Stephen Kenny confirmed that both Darren Randolph and Caoimhin Kelleher will miss out on the games against Serbia and Luxembourg.
Randolph has been struggling with a hip and thigh injury of late at West Ham. He seemingly aggravated the latter during a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at the end of February.
Many of the Irish faithful believed Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher would be the man to take his place. The Cork native has impressed with his performances this season for his club. In a cruel twist of faith, he’s also very likely to miss both games.
He is suffering with a slight abdominal tear.
While Stephen Kenny did say he’s not entirely out of the question for the opening qualifiers. He is only returning to training with Liverpool this weekend. Making it very likely he won’t be ready for the 24th and 27th of March.
While the loss of our number one and two goalkeepers is bitterly disappointing, we certainly aren’t lacking possible replacements for them.
Mark Travers is someone that you’d expect may be in the squad under normal circumstances anyway. Now, with both Randolph and Kelleher out, he must be a shoo-in.
The Maynooth man had a short loan spell with League One side Swindon Town from January to February.
While he only managed to keep a single clean sheet in his eight games, Travers got a burst of regular game. Something that he’s been lacking at Bournemouth.
Since returning to his parent club, Travers has again struggled to get into the starting team. The experienced Asmir Begovic will always be a tough customer to dethrone at most teams in the Championship.
Even with limited game time under his belt this season, we may still see Mark Travers between the sticks against Serbia and Luxembourg.
Others believe that honour should be saved for a goalkeeper that has been playing and impressing all season.
If Fit, Would Keiren Westwood Have Been Involved?
The 36-year-old assumed the number one jersey for the Republic of Ireland in a post Shay Given squad. He would later lose that position to David Forde.
Westwood made 21 appearances for the Ireland national team. His last major involvement came during Euro 2016 in France.
It seems to be a theme of this season. Plenty of former Ireland internationals that seemed destined to never don the famous green jersey again making a potential comeback.
As mentioned earlier, it’s very possible Aiden McGeady could return after impressing at Sunderland this season.
You even have certain sections of Ireland fans calling for Wes Hoolahan to come out of international retirement. The 38-year-old has been dazzling with Cambridge United, albeit in League Two.
In fairness, the talk around a returning Keiren Westwood seems justified.
Unlike Travers, he has been playing on a somewhat regular basis in the Championship.
When fit, he’s the main man between the sticks for Sheffield Wednesday throughout their battle for relegation. The first two words being key in that sentence.
Westwood is a player that has always struggled with injury woes. He’s currently out of action for his club and unlikely to be back to answer the call for Ireland.
While having experienced lads like Westwood and even our number one goalkeeper, Darren Randolph is valuable.
Majority of fans want to see the Stephen Kenny era usher in a new generation of Irish talent.
Situations like these provide the perfect opportunity for young lads to be fast tracked up to the senior squad.
One such player that is destined for the Ireland men’s senior squad is, Gavin Bazunu.
The Dub joined Premier League giants Manchester City from current League of Ireland Premier Division champions, Shamrock Rovers. Bazunu made the move following the completion of his leaving certificate.
The deal was reported to be in the region of £420,000.
Since making the move to England, the 19-year-old has continued to impress. He even signed a contract extension last year and was included in City’s Champions League squad for the second leg of their last 16 tie with Real Madrid.
While that’s all fantastic, a lad of his age needs valuable minutes to develop. So, Manchester City sent him on loan to League One with Rochdale.
It’s been a poor season for his new side as they look set to be relegated to League Two. However, nobody can question the performances of Gavin Bazunu during this loan spell.
He’s become a regular in the Rochdale team and has continuously impress. Bazunu even won the Player of the Month award for February.
Big things can be expected of him. Despite his young age he’s physically strong enough to cop with men’s football. Plus, he would be an extremely exciting addition to the Republic of Ireland squad.
While many feels if Caoimhin Kelleher keeps producing quality performances in the Premier League on a more consistent basis, he’ll be Ireland’s number one very soon.
Saying that, if Gavin Bazunu matures correctly as a player, he will give any goalkeeper eligible for Ireland a serious run for their money.
We’ve been lucky with talented goalkeepers throughout the years. On paper, Ireland seems to have stumbled across several talented individuals between the sticks.
While nobody can discredit the commitment and showings of Darren Randolph. Maybe now is the time to see a changing of the guard in terms of our number one goalkeeper at international level.