Blackburn duo called up as Ireland face defensive crisis for Euro 2020 qualifiers

Blackburn duo called up as Ireland face defensive crisis for Euro 2020 qualifiers

Blackburn Rovers defenders Darragh Lenihan and Greg Cunningham have been called up for the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2020 qualifiers this month.

Mick McCarthy's defensive options have been depleted for the games against Georgia and Switzerland, with regular centre-back pairing Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh out injured, and left-back Enda Stevens suspended for the Georgia game.

Keogh faces up to 15 months out with knee ligament damage, suffered in a car crash that led to the arrest of his Derby team-mates Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett, ruling him out of Euro 2020 should Ireland qualify.

John Egan and Kevin Long are expected to deputise for Duffy and Keogh in central defence but the 25-year-old Lenihan – already capped twice for Ireland – adds to McCarthy’s options, while Cunningham will challenge Wolves’ Matt Doherty for the left-back spot.

Richard Keogh faces up to 15 months out with a knee injury (Niall Carson/PA)
Richard Keogh faces up to 15 months out with a knee injury (Niall Carson/PA)

“Terry Connor has been to watch Darragh and Greg play for Blackburn and they have shown him they will be good additions for this squad,” McCarthy told FAI.ie.

Enda Stevens is suspended for the game in Tbilisi against Georgia and Greg is one of the most experienced left-backs available to us. He was with us in the summer and he knows what we want.

“We’ve watched Darragh a number of times and Terry and the other scouts like his footballing ability. He has been in and around the squad before so I look forward to working with him.”

David McGoldrick, Ireland's goalscoring hero from the draw against the Swiss last time out, is also sidelined through injury.

James Collins retains his place in the squad after scoring in the friendly against Bulgaria, as do fellow debutants in that game, man-of-the-match Josh Cullen, Shamrock Rovers' Jack Byrne, and goalkeepers Mark Travers and Kieran O’Hara.

Not included in the squad this time around are Sheffield Wednesday goalie Keiren Westwood, Fulham right-back Cyrus Christie, or Crystal Palace midfielder James McCarthy.

Newcastle centre-back Ciaran Clark, who last played in the 4-1 loss to Wales last year, remains out of favour, while there's no recalls for Harry Arter or Shane Long either.

Sean Maguire returns after a freak eye injury ruled him out of September's squad.

Ireland are two points clear on top of Group D as they bid to hold off Denmark and Switzerland for a top-two spot. They travel to play Georgia on Saturday, October 12, before visiting Switzerland on Tuesday, October 15.

“I won’t even start thinking about the team for that game [against Georgia] until the players turn up at the hotel on Sunday and I see who we have available,” said McCarthy.

“We have injuries and suspensions and I know that better than anyone. But there’s nothing I can do about them. It happens in football.

That’s why we changed almost the entire team for the Bulgaria game last month and look how well the players who came in like Josh, Alan Browne, John Egan, and Kevin Long did.

“They put their hands up for selection and gave me something to think about. Now it’s time to think about them for Georgia and I look forward to getting back on the training ground on Monday and starting the countdown to these two massive games in earnest.”

Republic of Ireland Squad:

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion, on loan from Manchester United)

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Kevin Long (Burnley), John Egan (Sheffield United), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Greg Cunningham (Blackburn Rovers), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United)

Midfielders: Alan Browne (Preston North End), Josh Cullen (Charlton Athletic, on loan from West Ham United), Glenn Whelan (Heart of Midlothian), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), James McClean (Stoke City), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)

Forwards: James Collins (Luton Town), Sean Maguire (Preston North End), Callum Robinson (Sheffield United), Alan Judge (Ipswich Town), Scott Hogan (Stoke City, on loan from Aston Villa)

- Additional reporting by PA

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