Attention turns to Sweden with final Ireland Euro 2016 squad decided

Roy Keane Martin O'Neill Republic of Ireland 31052016
The Boys in Green boss is determined to put his difficult decision-making process behind him as he prepares his final squad for the upcoming Euro 2016 games against Sweden, Italy and Belgium.


With less than 10 days to go until Euro 2016 kicks off in France, the final Republic of Ireland squad is now known and there are few surprises.

Waiting until the last possible minute, Martin O'Neill announced his 23-man panel in the immediate aftermath of his side's final tournament warm-up friendly against Belarus - a forgettable game which saw Ireland stumble to an insipid 2-1 defeat - and the mood, as is to be expected in such circumstances where bad news has just been broken, was subdued.

David Forde's omission from the group was the most noteworthy, and perhaps difficult, decision, with O'Neill handing the final goalkeeper's spot to Sheffield Wednesday's Keiren Westwood instead. 

It jarred somewhat, given that Forde had played a key role at the beginning of the qualification campaign, including, as O'Neill stressed, making "this wonderful save" in the dramatic last-minute draw against Germany back in 2014. Westwood on the other hand, in spite of his impressive club form, has always been on the periphery during O'Neill's tenure.

It makes sense from a football perspective, in that Forde has not been getting his game in League One with Millwall, while Westwood starred as Wednesday narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League.

However, the idea of being loyal to those who got the Boys in Green to France did not apply in the case of the 36-year-old, who may well have played his last game for Ireland.

Of course, Forde was not the only player to miss out. Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane, Everton's Darron Gibson, Oxford United youngster Callum O'Dowda and Ipswich Town striker David McGoldrick were all scythed from the ultimate selection, but the Ireland boss was in no humour to explain, in any depth, the thinking behind his final cut.

"Honestly, lads, I'm not going into any more thinking, much as you'd likely appreciate it. We'll have that discussion later on. I've gone with it now, that's my 23," said a terse O'Neill. "I'm not going any more into it, I've chosen my 23 and this is it."

No doubt the Ireland boss is not interested in dwelling on his choice because the matter of finding out what his best XI is before the opening game against Sweden is now the most pressing issue. Those who took part in the final warm-up games against the Netherlands and Belarus, have given him plenty to mull over. As have those who did not.

There were concerns over the fitness of Robbie Keane and the question tentatively arose as to whether he would make the squad at all after he picked up a calf strain ahead of the Belarus clash. 

After naming him in the 23, O'Neill revealed that Keane "thinks" he will be fit enough to feature, against Sweden. Even if the 35-year-old has been less of a force in recent years, such uncertainty not exactly reassuring.

James McCarthy missed both friendlies, but unlike Keane, he was a central figure in qualification and, despite his fitness worries, the Everton midfielder is poised to start the Sweden encounter.

Those considerations aside, the big questions for O'Neill now revolve around how he will line up tactically in France and which players he will trust to execute the game-plan.

Does he go with the 4-3-1-2 diamond formation, or use the 4-5-1 that backfired against Belarus? Who will partner John O'Shea at centre back? What part will Keane have to play?

The week ahead in Fota will help him decide, but, as with his last-minute final 23-man selection, it seems that nothing will be set in stone until June 13.