Ronnie Whelan worried at lack of attacking options in Irish squad

Ronnie Whelan is worried that Martin O’Neill has let himself short on goalscoring options should Shane Long get injured.

The Liverpool legend is worried by the lack of attacking options in the 23-man squad named on Tuesday night, with no place for David McGoldrick or Kevin Doyle in the 23, while Harry Arter missed out through injury.

Long, Robbie Keane and Daryl Murphy were the only out and out strikers to make the cut, and with Keane injured and Murphy lacking form, Whelan is worried by what would happen if Long doesn’t play.

“I think there could have been more in it,” Whelan said.

“The likes of [David] McGoldrick, [Eunan] O’Kane... they could have added to the squad. I’m not saying who you could leave out but he could have made better decisions and made room for them.

“The way he’s gone with the three central midfielders, that’s the strong centre, defensively he wants to be strong which isn’t a bad thing but you still need guile.

“Have we got enough guile in the team? Robbie is a great goalscorer, you looked at Murphy on Tuesday night... is he the answer if Robbie is injured and Shane Long gets injured?

“You leave yourself a little bit weak up front.”

James McClean has played as a centre forward at club level for Wigan and West Brom, and performed admirably alongside Long in the Switzerland friendly three months ago.

But Whelan doesn’t believe he’s the answer if the Southampton hitman is unavailable.

“I don’t see James as a centre forward,” he said. “He’s one of these lads who wants to be on the wing to run around. If Shane Long gets injured you’ve also got Jon Walters which would help.

“He’s the one for me that would go up there but hopefully Shane won’t be injured and he can go through the competition because he’s in a good run of form.”

Long has been linked with Liverpool and Spurs in recent weeks, following a season in which he delivered his best top flight goal return, and showed an improvement in his all round game.

He’s reportedly been offered a new five-year contract by Saints to keep him at St Mary’s, and Whelan hopes Long’s confidence boost has arrived at the perfect time.

“This is all going into a major tournament, and if he does well at this tournament then there’s going to be a lot more interest in him,” Whelan said.

“It’s a big one for him but we also need him in form. We need him to lead that line and lead it well. He’s come on leaps and bounds. When he was at Reading you’re thinking ‘he’s alright, he’s quick’ but now he’s brought a lot more to his game.

“He gets in and around, he’s strong, little chances like Tuesday night when he laid it on for the goal, he’s starting to see things a lot more.”

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