Robbie Brady makes a return to the Irish squad. [Inpho/James Crombie]

O'Shea names 26-man squad for March friendlies

Republic of Ireland Interim Head Coach John O'Shea has named a 26-man squad for the international friendly double-header against Belgium on Saturday, March 23 and Switzerland, on Tuesday, March 26, with kick-off at 7.45 p.m. Both games are at the at the Aviva Stadium.

Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth)

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Nathan Collins (Brentford), Andrew Omobamidele (Nottingham Forest), Dara O'Shea (Burnley), Liam Scales (Celtic), Jake O'Brien (Lyon), Robbie Brady (Preston North End), Festy Ebosele (Udinese).

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Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Will Smallbone (Southampton). Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Callum O’Dowda (Cardiff City), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Finn Azaz (Middlesbrough), Mikey Johnston (West Bromwich Albion). 

Forwards: Evan Ferguson (Brighton and Hove Albion), Adam Idah (Celtic), Michael Obafemi (Millwall, on loan from Burnley), Sammie Szmodics (Blackburn Rovers), Chiedozie Ogbene (Luton Town), Troy Parrott (Excelsior, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur). 

The last soccer international in Dublin was played four months ago when we drew 1-1 with New Zealand. That was Stephen Kenny’s last game in charge and since then the FAI have been searching for a replacement for the Dubliner. O’Shea takes charge for these two games only. The former Manchester United star has named three uncapped players Sammie Szmodics, who has scored 27 goals for Blackburn Rovers in the Championship this season, Middlesbrough’s Finn Azaz and Jake O’Brien, who plays for French club Lyon, while there’s also a return for Michael Obafemi, Robbie Brady, Callum O’Dowda and Seamus Coleman. 

Szmodics was called into a previous squad under Kenny’s tenure, however, he didn’t see any game time and subsequently missed out due to family commitments. Azaz, who was born in Westminster qualifies through his grandparents and is also eligible to play for Israel. O’Brien , who hails from Youghal in East Cork, has been impressing with French club Lyon and has won 11 under-21 caps. 

O’Shea obviously knows who the new manager is going to be as he confirmed that the new man had no input selecting this squad. He also said he is not worried that Leicester’s Irish under 21 international Tom Cannon has not declared for Ireland, with the striker currently concentrating on his club football. Meanwhile Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne has groin injury and is not included in the Belgian squad. Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco said De Bruyne has struggled with the injury for the last few matches. De Bruyne also missed Belgium’s last game in Dublin two years ago when an under strength Belgian team drew 2-2 with the Republic to celebrate the FAI’s Centenary.


Irish under-21 manager Jim Crawford has named a 24-strong squad for the  European Championship qualifier away to San Marino on Friday next. This is the only under 21 in this window. Italy lead the group with 11 points, while The Republic are in second place on 9 points. The other countries in this group are: Norway, Latvia and Turkey.  The Irish team will they will be expected to win comfortably, San Marino have not scored a goal in their five games today and have conceded 24 goals, Crawford has handed first call-ups to former League of Ireland players Newcastle United’s Alex Murphy (Galway United) and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Mark O’Mahony (Cork City), while Drogheda United’s Andrew Wogan and Bradford City’s Calum Kavanagh, are also included for their maiden involvements. Under-21 captain Joe Hodge and Andrew Moran return to the squad with both players set to join up with the senior team ahead of their against Switzerland on Tuesday next.