Mark Kinsella feels history will repeat itself over the next 12 months when it comes to revamping Ireland’s international squad.
Ireland’s route to Russia was derailed by Denmark on Tuesday, halting our World Cup hopes and probably the international careers of up to six of Martin O’Neill’s squad.
Such exoduses are commonplace at international level and former Ireland midfielder Kinsella believes the transition he was part of in 1998 when Mick McCarthy had to deal with the retirements of Andy Townsend, Paul McGrath, and Ray Houghton is set to occur again in the next year.
Kinsella was joined in McCarthy’s team against Czech Republic in Olomouc by five other debutants.
Rory Delap, Alan Maybury, and Graham Kavanagh all went on to enjoy moderate careers at international level, Kavanagh’s 16 caps the highest of the trio, but Kinsella, along with Damien Duff and Robbie Keane, would maintain a presence in the side that ended only last year with Keane’s retirement.
Whether it is a striker to replace Jonathan Walters and Daryl Murphy, a centre-back to assume John O’Shea’s role, or another craftsman in the ilk of Wes Hoolahan, Ireland need fresh blood.
McCarthy wasn’t afraid to test rookies back then and Kinsella reckons the Ireland boss for the 2020 European Championship qualification campaign, be it Martin O’Neill or someone else, needs to follow suit for the next international qualifier.
That’s likely to be next March, exactly 20 years after the famous coming of age showcase in the low-key setting of the Czech Republic. And Kinsella is in the fortunate position of knowing what talent is emerging through his coaching work.
Last year, he took up a position with the Ireland U21 squad.
Recruited onto manager Noel King’s backroom team for the latter stages of the last campaign, the 45-year-old has remained involved for the current tilt at breaking their qualification duck.
Tuesday’s last-minute 2-1 defeat in Norway ended Ireland’s unbeaten start but they sit second in their group behind Germany at the midway point of a campaign that could lead to the finals in 2019 hosted by Italy.
Callum O’Dowda, Alan Browne, and Sean Maguire were the graduates of the last batch and Kinsella also likes what he sees amongst the present intake.
West Ham United midfielders Declan Rice and Josh Cullen have already trained with the senior panel and he sees potential in Queen’s Park Rangers’ Ryan Manning, who he believes can catch the attention of O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane.
“We’ll probably discover over the next week or two how many of the senior players retire and it gives a great opportunity to breed new talent,” said the Dubliner.
“That was how six of us broke through in 1998 and, 20 years later, the same will probably have to happen.
“There is a good group of kids in this U21 squad and, whatever about going straight into the seniors, some are certainly good enough to be looked at in training.
“That’s our job in the U21s — to produce players that Martin and Roy can consider to step into the seniors.
“Callum has been called in and Josh is an exceptional player. Declan has come out of the blue for this campaign, played our last four games, and he is a talent that has played in the Premier League this season and has a big future.”
Despite the paucity of players like Rice getting exposure in the top-flight, Kinsella still thinks youngsters can benefit from playing regularly elsewhere.
“Foreign players are taking up most of the space for youngsters in Premier League squads so it is different nowadays,” Kinsella admitted.
“A lot of our players are on loan at League One clubs but the standard has improved.
“The lower leagues used to be all about humping the ball up to the striker whereas the football has got much better in recent years.”
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