It is difficult to pick a starting eleven with so much talent in this squad and there is no doubt that with three games in three days, each and every one of the twenty man squad will see some action over the course of the tournament.
I would go with a boring four-four-two formation simply because when employing other formations, a lot of training together is required to get used to, and to trust each other.
1. Adrian Walsh: In goal as a starter I would have to go with 2013 Junior International Player of the Year award winner. The Carrick United man has been widely recognized as one of the top goalkeepers in the country over recent years and was fully deserving of his player of the year accolade.
2. Conor Dillon: I would start with Conor Dillon at right back simply because he is so versatile and an experienced junior international defender. Has been playing centre of defence for St Pauls Artane this season but is comfortable all across the back.
3. James Walsh: Captain fantastic. There is not much one can say about St Michaels AFC except that he is a junior international legend and a true born leader. You don’t become Ireland’s all time most capped junior international without having real quality and his experience is vital in a tournament such as this one.
4. Marc Mooney: In my opinion one of the best players in the junior game and one of the main reasons that Kilbarrack Utd did so well last season. Rock solid and clever footballer, who pops up with a goal from set pieces from time to time.
5. Matthew Byrne: The Glengad United left back played played in the recent practice game against UCD and looks like a competent performer and composed on the ball.
6. John Tierney: At centre midfield in my team would have to be the Pike Rovers man. This lad is one of, if not the best midfielder in junior football at the moment and I’m sure he will be eager to impress on his home turf. Will shine in this tournament!
7. Alan McCabe: The Sheriff YC winger ran Shamrock Rovers ragged recently when he came off the bench in the FAI Senior Cup and his pace and skill has the potential to change any game. Big game performer!
8. Jon Meleady: A classy and composed performer. The Kilbarrack man has a great range of passing and is always available to receive a pass. Gerry Smith has played him at right back recently where he is comfortable also but I would employ him in his club position of centre midfield.
9. Shane Waters: The Janesboro man is small and tricky and can go past a player with his pace. I have only seen him play once in pre-season but once was enough to tell me he is a top class player.
10. Mark Townley: One of the best strikers in the country at any level. Explosive pace and a great finisher. Bags of skill also. He ran the Cork City defenders ragged in Kilbarrack’s game against them in the FAI Senior Cup, even when carrying a knock. Is still not back to one hundred percent fitness but will still be able to give nightmares to any defender.
11. Shane Clarke: The Janesboro striker scored 59 goals last season, with his last of that number coming on his junior international debut in June. An amazing goalscorer with plenty of skill. A good bet for top goalscorer of the tournament!
I’m a little more adventurous than Derek, and it’ll be 4-3-3 for my side, simply because, for the valid reasons Derek mentioned, most teams, with such little preparation time, will employ a 4-4-2, making them vulnerable to less formulaic formations.
That said, we are in almost in full agreement when it comes to the players we have picked.
1. Adrian Walsh: Very experienced at this level, which is precisely what is needed from a goalkeeper when going into a tournament where there are so many unknown quantities in the mix. So, a cool head and a safe pair of hands are just what the doctor ordered.
2. Matthew Byrne: The first player from the Inishowen League to play in the Quadrangular tournament, which is no doubt, a great source of pride for him and his club, Glengad. Looked very assured against UCD and will add to the reliability already provided by Walsh.
3. Conor Dillon: Plenty of pace going forward and attacks the byline at every chance, without neglecting his defensive duties. The fact that he can play across the back four just makes his selection more academic.
4. James Walsh: A great leader, with a commanding physical presence and the type of character that can galvanise a strong squad spirit in a short space of time, which is imperative in this type of situation.
5. Marc Mooney: The archetypal classy centre half. The Kilbarrck man reads the game extremely well, is very comfortable in possession and distributes the ball wonderfully.
6. Darren Dunne: Was Ireland’s standout performer against UCD, and hasn’t put a foot wrong for Sheriff YC all season. A box-to box midfielder in the mould of Roy Keane circa 1996; great engine, teak-tough, can pick a pass and knows where the goal is.
7. John Tierney: Was initially thought to be doubtful because of injury, but those concerns appear to have subsided, which is great news. Tierney has had a tremendous start to the season with Pike Rovers, and will no doubt want to make a big impression on his home turf tomorrow.
8. Jon Meleady: Ireland need him on the ball as often as possible if they are to scalp the Scots. If that can happen, Meleady’s vision and guile should ensure that the Irish forwards are provided plenty of opportunity to hurt the champions.
9. Shane Clarke: Narrowly shades it over Keith Dunne, given the Sheriff man’s lack of competitive game time. Tierney, as Derek alluded to, is a proverbial goal machine and it’s vital he hit the ground running tomorrow.
10. Mark Townley: Has struggled all season with injury but has been cleared to play and hopefully his troubles are behind him. Was arguably the AUL Premier A’s best player last season and it’s not difficult to see why. Townley has great movement, serious gas, is an apex finisher and should be one of the stars of the tournament.
11. Alan McCabe: Scored an absolute peach for Sheriff against St Kevin’s Boys over the weekend and is the most versatile of the front three. McCabe looked great on the left wing against UCD and his set-piece delivery was top notch. He’s demon quick over 10 yards and is capable of scoring from anywhere. Gerry Smith and Co. will be hoping he and Townley can rekindle their partnership which proved so telling in the Dublin AUL retaining their Oscar Traynor Trophy.