Who will lead the Republic of Ireland’s scoring at Euro 2016?
Lee Gormley | May 11, 2016
Who will finish Ireland’s top scorer?
Euro 2016 is swiftly approaching, with the summer’s showcase football event kicking-off on June 10th, and Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland are set to enter proceedings in France with high hopes and talented ranks capable of emulating their gallant qualifying campaign.
The Ireland boss does not have to announce his final squad selections until 10 days before the tournament’s start date, and there are still plenty of players hoping to secure a spot in the roster which will face all of Sweden, Italy and Belgium in Group E on French soil.
Many positions are still up for grabs but the Boys in Green are likely to include their usual suspects when it comes to their frontline. So, with a host of in-form and reliable forwards available at O’Neill’s disposal, who will go on to become the Emerald Isle’s top scorer at Euro 2016?
Southampton striker Long has enjoyed an impressive campaign for both club and country, netting decisive goals for Ireland in what was ultimately a successful qualifying campaign and also in the Premier League for Ronald Koeman’s Saints.
The Tipperary-born frontman has been prolific towards the end of proceedings in the top-flight, bagging an impressive three in five outings, while also dispatching when donning green in an international friendly draw with Slovakia.
Long will therefore enter Euro 2016 as the red-hot 5/2 favourite with Coral to finish as his country’s top scorer in France, with his memorable winner over world champions Germany in Dublin and his recent exploits in the Premier League proving his importance to O’Neill this summer.
In fact, in the 14 games which the Saints sharpshooter has successfully found the target for club and country this season, his team have been on the losing side just twice. The 29-year-old will come up against Saints teammate Graziano Pelle when facing Italy this summer, but based on recent form, it’s the Azzurri defence that should be the more worried.
Stoke City’s reliable attacker Walters has become a vital member of Ireland’s set-up, proved by his awarding of his country’s Player of the Year, after his heroics during qualifying and especially the second leg play-off encounter against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The forceful Potters forward has double figures for the term for club and country commitments, but his most important goals came in November in that decisive second leg victory at the Aviva Stadium. Walters had missed the first leg but returned to fire in both strikes in a 2-0 win which saw Ireland secure their spot in France.
Walters bagged the joint-most goals for the Irish in qualifying, tucking home five along with skipper Robbie Keane during 10 group outings and that play-off showing, and the Stoke finisher is 7/2 to end highest scorer for the Boys in Green this summer.
If anyone is going to fire Ireland to success in France, surely it will be their all-time record goalscorer Keane? The deadly Dubliner is 4/1 to end as his country’s top marksman this summer, after his five strikes in qualifying, though he has become more of an impact player than starting striker of late.
The LA Galaxy hitman is still tearing it up in the MLS but his playing time in green has become limited to substitute appearances in recent times, though that’s not to say he can’t have an important influence on the hopeful Euro campaign.
Keane’s experience is a huge boost within the squad, having been at the heart of both Ireland’s highs and lows across at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2012, and he will look to shine in what could be his final major tournament outing.
Norwich City wideman Brady has enjoyed a lot more success at international level than with his club in the Premier League this season, having been a key component in O’Neill’s sides throughout qualifying.
The young Dubliner featured both on the left side of midfield and at left back during the campaign and, despite a few setbacks early on, the Canaries winger showed plenty of promise as he helped reach France with his astute set-piece abilities and vital goals.
Brady dispatched a crucial away strike in the play-off first leg on what was an extremely foggy night in the city of Zenica, and the 24-year-old is 16/1 to finish atop Ireland’s scoring standings on their summer travels.
Brady’s club teammate at Carrow Road and fellow Dubliner Hoolahan also impressed on his Ireland duties since being called upon by O’Neill, after years of being unfortunately left out in the dark, especially during Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign.
Though he looked like the bright spark Ireland have been calling out for in recent years, taking on that attacking midfield role with ease and providing his forward teammates with plenty of creativity.
The Irish playmaker has racked up just four goals for the Canaries this term but, with the chance to showcase his attacking qualities on the big stage in France, Hoolahan is a 14/1 to lead the scoring charts for his country.
Another potential midfield threat for the Boys in Green comes in the form Derby County’s Hendrick, who starred in qualifying under O’Neill when cementing his spot in the central areas.
The 24-year-old anchorman is far from prolific but can chip in with some valuable strikes from deep and is a 22/1 shot to end the summer top of the scoring standings for his country.
Alternatively, after the dismal showings in their last European Championships when Sean St Ledger netted their only goal in three straight group defeats, 16/1 odds are available on there being no Irish scorer in France at all.