Westwood is the favourite but may need to find first team action.

by Leighton Cullen

With Shay Given’s retirement from the international stage the battle for the number one jersey heats up. The contenders mentioned below have one hell of a task replacing a national hero but replace him they must if Ireland are to have any chance of qualifying for Brazil 2014.

Who has the safest hands in which we can entrust our hopes?

Kieran Westwood Sunderland 10 caps
Westwood is everyone’s favourite to take over from Shay. He has been a good, solid understudy to Shay during his time in the squad but unfortunately that’s how I still view him – as back-up. Westwood needs to get himself first team football which he achieved at Sunderland last term until injury put pay to that. He is now firmly second choice for O’Neill and I fear if he remains up there it will wreck his chances of being Ireland’s number 1 for years to come.

Darren Randolph Motherwell 0 Caps
The Motherwell stopper has represented Ireland from Under 15 level all the way up the ranks to B level. Randolph has made strides since his move to Motherwell and may well be the Irish keeper in the future if he continues to progress along. As long as he keeps playing regular first team football he has a chance to break into the national set-up.

David Forde Millwall 2 Caps
The Millwall stopper is the man who may well finish the season as the Irish Number 1 IF Trap sticks to the 3 keepers he has in this squad. Forde has played 2 games and was the keeper in the friendly win over Italy a few seasons ago. A dominating force for Millwall and is a strong contender for the jersey.

Paddy Kenny Leeds 7 Caps
Vastly experienced and capable of outstanding displays if Paddy returns to the international fold he has every chance of taking the position and (briefly, due to his advancing years) make it his own. In my opinion Paddy should be selected ahead of the others and he is plainly the superior talent. Last season for QPR he excelled in a average team and put in some wonderful performances which helped keep the Hoops in the top flight. Another reunion with Warnock only furthers his cause as Leeds embark on a probable promotion campaign.
Colin Doyle Birmingham 1 Cap
Doyle has the frame and stature to be a good goalkeeper but like Westwood he needs to secure first team football. The couple of occasions that I saw him last season he performed capably but regrettably I don’t consider him to have progressed significantly since he won his one and only cap for his country in 2007. Back then I regarded him as a possible future number 1 but his claim has now diminished.
Graham Stack Hibs 0 Cap
Stack is the forgotten man when it comes to keepers. An ever-present for Hibs his reputation it seems ends at the border with Trap’s knowledge at times ruling out such peripheral players.  He certainly possesses the ability – an excellent season for Hibs helped take them to a Cup Final and fought off relegation concerns.
My view is Westwood will start the season as number 1 but without first team football he will lose his place in the team with Forde taking over. Trap has the options out there and it’s a case of him trying to pick the best out of a average lot and try to improve them into a international class keeper.