If one thing is for certain, it’s going to be a party for The Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016. Every time The Boys in Green make it to a major final sporting history is made. Whether it be beating Spain on penalties, defeating England or scoring a last minute equalizer, there will never be a dull moment. This Ireland team is capable of making their own history as positivity oozes from the squad.
How They Qualified: Rep Ireland were drawn into a qualification group where it seemed every single game was a must win and every opponent was greeted like an old foe. They desperately tried to avoid a play-off berth having been disappointed by that method so many times in the past but finished third behind Germany and Poland. Republic of Irealnd booked thier palce at Euro 2016 by dispatching Bosnia 3-1 on aggregate, including a 2-0 2nd leg victory in front of a feverous home crowd in the play-offs.
Tournament History: Group stage 1988, 2012.
Coach: Martin O’Neill.
The former Leicester City, Aston Villa and Sunderland boss has brought with him a freshness to the Rep Ireland side that is a welcome reprieve to the stuffiness of Giovanni Trappatoni’s reign. He surprised many by bringing in Roy Keane as his assistant and the partnership has blossomed. A famous last minute victory at home to Germany via unlikely hero John O’Shea is an example of what is possible for these two coahes.
Nicknames: The Bhoys, The boys in green.
Key Man: Shane Long.
The Southampton forward is an underrated presence in the EPL. The Irishman buzzes around defenses like a wasp around a picnic and is not easily contained. No doubt O’Neill will look to get men behind the ball and aim to break in France and Shane Long seems like the exact weapon one needs in that situation. With Robbie Keane at the age of 35 and all too often succumbing to injuries with LA Galaxy, Long may be asked to give 110% for 75% of the game before introducing Keane to lift the crowd, the team and their chances.
One To Watch: James McCarthy.
The Everton midfielder is another unsung hero of the EPL. Toffees boss Roberto Martinez rates the young Irishman so much he persevered to take him with him from Wigan to Everton. Defensive stability and strong counter-attacking intuition will be the only way this Ireland side with limited ability are going to get out of the group, McCarthy has that in spades.
June 13, 12 p.m. vs. Sweden
June 18, 9 a.m. vs. Belgium
June 22, 3 p.m. vs. Italy
Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Stoke), Darren Randolph (West Ham), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday).
Defenders: Cyrus Christie (Derby), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Richard Keogh (Derby), Shane Duffy (Blackburn), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Stephen Ward (Burnley).
Midfielders: Robbie Brady (Norwich), Aiden McGeady (Sheffield Wednesday), David Meyler (Hull), Jeff Hendrick (Derby), Stephen Quinn (Reading), James McCarthy (Everton), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), James McClean (West Brom), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich).
Forwards: Jonathan Walters (Stoke), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Shane Long (Southampton).