Both countries won one game and exited Euro 2016 at the same stage, but what would the best combined Republic and Northern Ireland team look like? Brendan O’Brien, who swapped between the camps during the tournament and covered all eight games, makes his selection.
1. Michael McGovern
Darren Randolph was exceptional against France last Sunday when peppered with shots by the hosts, but his Northern Ireland counterpart took the breath away with his defiance against Germany at the Parc des Princes.
A move away from Hamilton Academical awaits the Enniskillen man while Randolph has made many wonder why he spends most of the club season on the bench with West Ham United. A good tournament for Irish keepers.
2. Seamus Coleman
The Killybegs man made his name as an attacking right-back and, though he isn’t seen in that capacity as much as people would like with Ireland, this tournament still marked a watershed moment for him.
Named captain for the Italian game, Coleman produced a stirring performance. He set the tone with the first tackle and his limpet-like hustling was a constant feature over four games.
3. Jonny Evans
Stephen Ward emerged from Euro 2016 in some credit after breaking back into the Republic’s team for the Belgium game in Bordeaux, but Evans was a cornerstone at the back for the North whatever the system used by Michael O’Neill.
Evans played on the left side of defence and finest effort came against Wales last Saturday when he kept Gareth Bale on the periphery for much of the game.
4. Gareth McAuley
The West Brom centre-back is 36 now but he never looked like the Euros were too much for him. Provided authority and calm at the heart of a defence that featured three, four, five and sometimes even six players at various times.
Scored the opening goal against Ukraine in Lyon that set up a famous 2-0 win and provided the base for the side’s qualification for the last 16. Unfortunate in scoring the own goal that sealed a 1-0 win for Wales at the weekend.
5. Craig Cathcart
With the Republic using two entirely different centre-back formations, it would have taken truly exceptional performances from John O’Shea, Ciaran Clark, Richard Keogh or Shane Duffy to oust Cathcart and McAuley.
All four played well at times but Cathcart was a constant and, though he was partially to blame for Germany’s goal in Paris, he did well on threats ranging from Robert Lewandowski to Sam Vokes.
6. Steven Davis
One of the few Northern Ireland players who plays his club football in the Premier League, the Southampton midfielder captained his country superbly in France.
Isolated tactically in the opening defeat to Poland, he harried opponents all month as the North fought for scraps of possession. His calm and intelligent use of the ball was critical when they did have it.
7. James McClean
McClean looked sharp in the Republic’s limp friendly defeat to Belarus in Cork and he carried that form through to the European Championships, breaking into the team against Italy having appeared off the bench in the first two games.
Energetic and fiery, he toned down the aggression just enough and provided a good outlet on the wing even if he spurned a glorious chance with a poor cross for what would have been an equalising goal late on against France.
8. Jeff Hendrick
Just sensational. Hendrick surely can’t be long for Derby and the English Championship on the back of a body of work that twice almost saw him score what would have been contenders for goal of the tournament.
It was his all-round game that impressed most though. So comfortable, composed and strong on the ball, Hendrick gave all the signs that he could be the answer to the Republic’s prayers for a dynamic top-class midfielder.
9. Daryl Murphy
One that will make most people rub their eyes but this is about form and not reputations and both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland struggled to feed their strikers anything like the sort of supply needed to shine.
Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington, Josh Magennis and Shane Long all worked hard without ever looking like scoring. Murphy did all that donkey work in two games and was denied his first Irish goal from two excellent efforts against Italy and France.
10. Wes Hoolahan
Not the perfect tournament from the impish Norwich City creator who looked heavy-legged against Belgium and found it difficult to make any impact when introduced in the second-half against France on Sunday.
Yet it was he who scored Ireland’s memorable opener against Sweden and his sublime cross set up the Robbie Brady header that defeated Italy and sent the Republic through to the last 16.
One of a kind.
11. Robbie Brady
Despite being the third youngest player in the squad the Dubliner has emerged as a real leader in the Republic’s team. He gives Martin O’Neill a range of options at left-back, left-midfield and in the centre of the park.
His thrusting runs from the back were a regular feature of the draw with Sweden, his bravery in heading home against Italy and the celebration that followed were truly memorable, and he was cool as ice with the penalty against France.
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