Case made for Portsmouth’s Ronan Curtis to be handed Republic of Ireland debut 

Ronan Curtis. Picture: Niall Carson/ PA Images
Ronan Curtis. Picture: Niall Carson/ PA Images
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Ronan Curtis will be hoping to fulfil a lifelong dream tonight.

The Pompey forward is in the reckoning to win his first full Republic of Ireland cap when Martin O’Neill’s side face Wales in the Nations League at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

The former Derry City man was promoted to the senior squad on Sunday, after previously being on duty for Noel King’s under-21 side.

Clearly. O’Neill thinks highly of Curtis, having brought him into his set up on a second occasion.

He was an unused substitute in Ireland’s 1-1 draw against Poland last month. 

But what are the chances of the Pompey winger making his senior international bow against Ryan Giggs’ Wales?

With O’Neill favouring a 3-5-2 formation, Curtis is bidding for one of the two striking roles.

As a consequence, he’s battling for a forward berth alongside Shane Long (Southampton), Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire (both Preston North End), Aiden O'Brien (Millwall) and Scott Hogan (Aston Villa).

That quintet are all playing at a level higher than the Blues’ current League One suroundings.

However, Irish News reporter Brendan Crossan, who is in Dublin to cover tonight’s game at the Aviva, feels Curtis could finally be handed his Ireland bow off the bench.

He’s certain Long, Robinson and Maguire are above the south London-born talent in the pecking order.

But after registering six goals and five assists during Pompey’s early title charge, O’Neill could call upon Curtis to make an impact.

Crossan said: ‘The fact he’s been called in from the under-21s would suggest Curtis is down the pecking order.

‘He’s definitely on Martin O’Neill’s radar, though, and is there on merit given the fact he’s scored six goals in 11 games (for Pompey).

‘But at international level you kind of have to wait your turn unless you’re exceptional.

‘Shane Long played as a lone striker in the 0-0 draw with Denmark on Saturday. He hasn’t played a lot of football so it’s up for debate whether he’ll start again, though I’d imagine he will.

‘Callum Robinson did reasonably well in the 4-1 defeat to Wales when Ireland were really stretched.

‘So you’d imagine Robinson will be one of a few ahead of Curtis to get into the team.

‘Maguire’s a fox-in-the-box sort of player but could be an impact player and one to bring on if they’re chasing a goal.

‘Scott Hogan hasn’t been playing for Villa, so you could say Curtis is ahead because he’ll be match fit and sharper.

‘Aidan O’Brien got a few minutes alongside Robinson against Denmark but was only his second cap.

‘So you’ve got Long top of the pile, Maguire, Robinson, O’Brien and Hogan – I’d say Curtis probably falls in after that. The two I’d definitely say are ahead are Robinson and Maguire. 

‘I wouldn’t say Curtis is definitely not going to be used but there are players there who definitely are ahead.

‘You could easily make a case for Curtis to get some game time if the Republic are chasing the game and need a goal. 

‘If you were making a case of needing a goal, Portsmouth are flying high and he’s scored six goals in only 11 League One games.

‘If you’re looking at stats, regardless of who has more senior caps, you could easily make a case for Curtis.

‘It would almost be a leap of faith it Ireland are 1-0 down with 15 minutes to go. O’Neill may look around at Maguire, Hogan, O’Brien and Robinson, but Curtis is in good goalscoring form.

‘Forget about seniority, which does count in the senior squads and O’Neill can be conservative, if he catches the eye in training he could get the nod.’

Curtis was promoted to the senior squad after Callum O'Dowda was ruled out of the Wales clash after complaining of dizzy spells against Denmark.

Nevertheless, the call-up demonstrates how highly regarded the former Swilly Rovers junior is by his country’s boss. 

And Crossan feels Curtis could be part of O’Neill’s plans for when Ireland’s European Championship qualifiers start in March. 

He added: ‘Curtis is one of the main players in King’s under-21 side and I’m sure there have been discussions about who deserves a call-up.

‘In many respects, it’s maybe a compliment Curtis has been promoted because Callum O’Dowda is a midfielder in effect and O’Neill didn’t go like for like.

‘O’Neill is preparing the team for the Euros – as he said, the start is earnest in March.

‘Curtis might be one he’s thinking about come then but he’s making good progress.’

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