Football | Ireland players we’d like to see against Bulgaria

Mick McCarthy is set to ring the changes for the Republic of Ireland’s friendly against Bulgaria on Tuesday night.

The Ireland manager has confirmed that he will rotate the team after Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium.

Bulgaria make the short trip to Dublin from London, where they were hammered 4-0 by England at Wembley last week.

“There will be some changes against Bulgaria and the players understand that,” McCarthy confirmed.

“Those who have travelled with us for the five competitive games without playing know that some of them will get their chances to impress in this match.”

With that in mind, here are five players we’d like to see given a chance against Bulgaria.

Alan Browne

Alan Browne got his first taste of competitive international football with a late cameo against Switzerland last week.

The 24-year-old replaced goalscorer David McGoldrick with five minutes remaining, winning his fourth cap as the Boys in Green came from behind to earn a crucial point.

Browne has been excellent for Preston in the Championship for several seasons, and is capable of contributing regular goals and assists from midfield.

He has yet to score in eight appearances for Alex Neil’s side this season having broken back into the team following injury, but did score the winning penalty for Preston in the Carabao Cup win over Hull at Deepdale.

The Cork native scored 12 league goals and registered five assists last season, and has the potential to add some much-needed creativity to Ireland’s midfield.

Should he start against Bulgaria, an impressive performance in Dublin could help Browne to force his way into McCarthy’s starting eleven.

Jack Byrne

Jack Byrne is another central midfielder with the ability to inject creativity into the Irish midfield.

The Shamrock Rovers star has produced some eye-catching performances for the Hoops in Europe this season, and has been at the heart of the majority of the Tallaght club’s best displays in the Premier Division.

McCarhty is a known admirer of the former Manchester City academy star, and Byrne’s vision and eye for a pass could give the Irish midfield an extra dimension if he were to operate as a number 10.

If the 23-year-old Dubliner is given a chance against Bulgaria, he’ll be hoping to emulaet Rovers teammate Graham Burke, who became the first League of Ireland player to score in a senior international for Ireland in 40 years against the USA last year in just his second cap.

Alan Judge, Ronan Curtis and Callum O’Dowda will also be hoping to pick up some minutes in midfield.

James Collins

With David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson both withdrawing from the Ireland squad through injury, McCarthy’s attacking options are limited ahead of Bulgaria’s visit to the Aviva.

James Collins and Scott Hogan are the only recognized strikers left in the Ireland squad.

Collins has yet to win an international cap for the Boys in Green, but is likely to make his debut at some point on Tuesday night.

The 28-year-old has already scored three Championship goals in six games following Luton’s promotion to the second tier, having found the net 25 times and being named as League One’s Player of the Year last season.

Collins has represented Ireland at underage level, but had to wait until March for his first senior call up.

The powerful forward has been prolific over the last 18 months, and deserves the opportunity to show he can also find the net at international level.

Collins could potentially start up front on his own, alongside Hogan, or replace Hogan at some point in the friendly.

Mark Travers

Mark Travers has enjoyed a rapid rise, and it would be great to see the Bournemouth ‘keeper given a taste of senior international football.

The 20-year-old shot stopper burst on to the scene last season with a man of the match display against Spurs on his Premier League debut for the Cherries.

Travers once again proved his credentials by saving three penalties against Forest Green in the Carabao Cup earlier this season as Eddie Howe’s side avoided a huge upset.

The visit of Bulgaria is the perfect opportunity to give number one Darren Randolph a rest, and to add another milestone in the blossoming career of Travers.

Josh Cullen

A former captain for the Boys in Green at U21 level, Josh Cullen could be on the verge of making his senior debut.

Cullen has played every minute for Charlton – where he is on loan from West Ham – so far this season, and McCarthy is believed to be a big fan of the combative midfielder.

The 23-year-old has impressed in the Championship this season, and could come into the side for veteran Glenn Whelan, or could win his first senior cap off the bench.

Cullen enjoyed a stellar season at Charlton in League One last year, capping off an excellent campaign with a crucial assist for the winning goal in the play-off final at Wembley.

John Egan

One player likely to be given a chance to impress is John Egan.

The 26-year-old defender has impressed for Sheffield United following the Blades’ promotion to the Premier League, and will be eager to add to his four caps to date.

Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh were largely excellent against the Swiss on Thursday, but Keogh is now 33, and Egan is well positioned to inherit the Derby defender’s position in the starting eleven when the time comes.

The Cork native has played every minute of the Premier League season so far for Chris Wilder’s newly promoted side, playing in the same team as fellow Ireland internationals Enda Stevens, David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson.

Egan will be competing with Burnley centre half Kevin Long for a place in the starting eleven if McCarthy opts to rest Duffy or Keogh.

Cyrus Christie is another defender who will also be hoping for a chance to impress.