Caoimhín Kelleher is expected to leave Liverpool this summer. The 24-year-old Cork native has struggled for minutes behind Alisson Becker and, as a result, fell behind Southampton goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu in the Irish pecking order.
“It looks like Caoimhín will be on the move this summer because he needs games, he has been starved of games,” said Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. “That’s been a problem for him. He is very, very talented. It is hard to leave Liverpool, such an iconic club but he’s 24 now and needs to play.
“He’s behind one of the best goalkeepers in the world so it is not going to get any easier. You can’t improve if you are not playing. He knows that. He’s known that for a while.”
Chiedozie Ogbene is a significant loss to the Ireland squad ahead of European Championship qualifiers against Greece and Gibraltar. Ogbene (hamstring tear) joins Andrew Omobamidele and Irish captain Séamus Coleman on the absentee list.
“Chiedozie, it is a bad hamstring tear,” said Kenny. “He came home and we had him in the Mardyke in Cork, giving him intensive physio over the last few weeks, trying to get him right without taking any risks.
“It is just too soon for him. He played well against France and he has been excellent for Rotherham this season, and I am sure he will get a very, very good move. He deserves it.”
Kenny has named a 25-man squad for this month’s matches in Athens and Dublin, with the international careers of Shane Duffy and Robbie Brady appear to be over after both veterans, who share 115 caps between them, were excluded.
Middlesbrough centre half Darragh Lenihan and former Shamrock Rovers defender Liam Scales are included along with Mark Sykes, who is named as understudy to Matt Doherty at right back, as Alan Browne rehabs a medial knee issues.
“Mark Sykes has played a lot there for Bristol City in 3-5-2 and he is just a beautiful passer of the ball. Jason Knight has played there for Derby. Nothing is nailed on, we will have to see how people turn up and train.”
Callum O’Dowda returns to the group, having missed the 1-0 defeat to France last March, to compete with James McClean on the left wing. McClean is two caps shy of 100 appearances for his country.
Ryan Manning pulled out of the squad due to “personal reasons,” Kenny explained, which presented Liam Scales with an opportunity.
Despite injuries to Ogbene and Callum Robinson, Kenny possesses a wealth of options up front as Evan Ferguson’s first Premier League season for Brighton yielded six goals and four more in cup competitions.
Michael Obafemi, Adam Idah or Troy Parrott will partner the 18-year-old, unless a 5-4-1 system is employed in Athens on June 16th which would put Will Smallbone and Mikey Johnston in the frame.
Everton striker Tom Cannon (20) does not make the squad despite an impressive loan spell at Preston North End and scoring on debut for the Ireland under-21s earlier this year. Cannon missed the recent conditioning camp in Bristol due to tonsillitis.
“Tom is on standby,” Kenny explained, “hopefully he can link up with the under-21s for three games in Austria.”
Dara O’Shea is available despite playing no football for West Brom since suffering a knee injury against the French.
Ireland could not find quality international friendly opposition in Antalya, Turkey for warm weather training from June 5th, so the 25-man squad will play internal matches next week.
Republic of Ireland Squad – Greece & Gibraltar
Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth).
Defenders: Matt Doherty (Atlético Madrid), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Callum O’Dowda (Cardiff City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Nathan Collins (Wolverhampton Wanderers), John Egan (Sheffield United), Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough), Liam Scales (Celtic).
Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion), Jeff Hendrick (Reading), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jason Knight (Derby County), Jamie McGrath (Wigan Athletic), Jack Taylor (Peterborough United).
Forwards: Adam Idah (Norwich City), Michael Obafemi (Burnley), Evan Ferguson (Brighton and Hove Albion), Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur), Mikey Johnston (Vitória de Guimarães, on loan from Celtic).
Uefa EURO 2024 qualifying fixtures
16/6: Greece v Ireland, OPAP Arena, 7.45pm (21.45pm local time); 19/6: Ireland v Gibraltar, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm