Stephen Kenny named his first Republic of Ireland squad today ahead of the Uefa Nations League games against Bulgaria and Finland next month.
Instead of opting for a bloated squad and then culling it, as his predecessors have done, Kenny went for a 23-man squad.
Kenny handed a first call-up to two players while there were a number of notable absentees from the squad.
Molumby is considered as one of the most promising young talents in Irish football. The Waterford native has ten Under-21 caps to his name while he also captained the side under Kenny.
Molumby, 21, spent last season on loan at Millwall from Brighton. He established himself as a fan favourite at The Den, Molumby made 36 appearances and scored once in the 2019/2020 season.
In March, Molumby signed a new deal to keep him at Brighton until 2023. The central midfielder is known for his work rate and passing ability.
At a press conference after the squad announcement, Kenny said: “Jayson Molumby learned so much at Millwall last season. Our midfield will be very strong and competitive.”
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) August 24, 2020
Cork teenager Adam Idah is another player who has impressed at Under-21 level for Ireland.
The 19-year-old scored a hat-trick in Norwich City’s FA Cup victory over Preston this season while he also made 12 Premier League appearances.
He will compete with Shane Long, Aaron Connolly, Callum Robinson and David McGoldrick (available for the Finland game) for a spot up front.
Kenny said: “Adam Idah can play with his back to goal. There are not many strikers who can do that, and are also very quick. He has all the attributes to be a very good striker.”
Who missed out?
There are a number of players who may feel hard done by after being left out of Kenny’s first Ireland squad.
Southampton striker Michael Obafemi appeared to react to his exclusion from the squad with the following tweet.
— MO (@michaelobafemi_) August 24, 2020
Obafemi made 25 Premier League appearances this season and scored three goals, including a late equaliser against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
When asked about Obafemi’s tweet, Kenny said: “Listen Michael is a great lad. I think he’s been playing in a front two a lot, he’s still learning the position playing wider. That’s something he’s still coming to terms with. He’s in a much better physical condition at the moment, Michael has a very good future ahead of himself.
“I hope he goes into the Under-21 squad and does well now at that level and hopefully gets into the Southampton team. The manager at Southampton Ralph Hassenhuttl has been brilliant for him. I do hope, Michael, you know didn’t make this squad, but squads are evolving and changing.
“We do play with one lone central striker and he’s not played that role that much because his team play with a two. It is different position. He has played wide with Southampton on occasion, he’s still learning that one. I see him as a striker and he’s someone who hopefully has a big future with Ireland.”
Whelan was one of Ireland’s best players last season after being recalled to the international setup by Mick McCarthy. Whelan was even nominated for 2019 Senior International Player of the Year, which David McGoldrick won.
However, his exclusion from Kenny’s first squad does not bode well for the 36-year-old.
Kenny has opted for more youthful midfield options than Whelan, who now plays his club football for Fleetwood Town in League One.
Byrne had featured in the last few Ireland squads but he missed out on this occasion. Kenny’s centre-midfield places are occupied by the returning James McCarthy and Harry Arter along with Molumby, Alan Browne, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane.
Kenny said it was a tough choice to leave Byrne out, adding that the Shamrock Rovers midfielder was on ‘stand-by’.