Friday, June 14, 2024

John O’Shea’s Ireland audition goes on – talking points as Republic face Hungary

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John O’Shea will send the Republic of Ireland into friendly battle with Hungary on Tuesday night with one eye on the future despite not knowing if he will have a part to play in it.

The interim boss, who also took charge of March’s fixtures against Belgium and Switzerland, will be at the helm once again as Ireland prepare for the new Nations League campaign, which gets under way against England in September.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

O’Shea OK?

When the Football Association of Ireland parted company with Stephen Kenny in November last year, the nation eagerly awaited the appointment of his replacement, with England Under-21s boss Lee Carsley leading a list of big-name potential candidates. Nearly seven months on, the wait is ongoing and 118-times-capped defender O’Shea, who was initially ruled out of the race, has been handed a second audition having edged himself into contention.

Going for goals

Since the retirement of record goalscorer Robbie Keane in 2016, Ireland have been far from prolific. With the notable exceptions of James McClean and Jonathan Walters in key qualifiers, successive managers have struggled to find a cutting edge, and the problem has become ever more acute in the last two seasons. Since an impressive 3-0 Nations League win over Scotland in June 2022, the Republic have scored more than once in a game on just four occasions – against minnows Armenia, Latvia and Gibraltar twice – and have failed to find the net in five of their last eight.

New Cannon in the armoury

Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson and Luton striker Chiedozie Ogbene have been at the forefront of recent efforts to make Ireland a more dangerous proposition, but neither is available for the current camp. In their absence, Leicester’s 21-year-old frontman Tom Cannon could be handed a senior debut after helping his club win promotion to the Premier League.

Sliding doors moment for Sammie

In-form Blackburn striker Sammie Szmodics will hope to line up against Hungary knowing he could have been doing so for the opposition. Szmodics, who made his senior international debut against the Belgians in March, qualifies for the Magyars through his grandfather, but admitted earlier this year that Ireland was always his focus.

Hungry Hungary

Under Italian head coach Marco Rossi, Hungary have prospered and will play in their second successive European Championship finals this summer. Rossi’s side, which famously beat Euro 2020 runners-up England 4-0 at Molineux in a Nations League fixture in June 2022, qualified as Group G winners ahead of Serbia and will battle it out with Germany, Scotland and Switzerland for a place in the knockout stages.

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