Saturday 26 March, Aviva Stadium, 5pm


Live coverage on Sky Sports.


Live coverage on Saturday Sport on RTE Radio 1.


Live blog on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News app from 4pm.


A warm evening looks to be in store with a no chance of rain come kick-off time.


It was one year ago this weekend that Stephen Kenny and the Republic of Ireland were at their lowest point.

A 1-0 defeat to Luxembourg left gloom over the nation and left many questioning the ability of the Irish boss.

Some of those have been silenced. Kenny proudly boasts an evolution of the Irish team with 15 debutants, morale-boosting victories and an increased fan base.

There are record number for season ticket sales and a wave of optimism that seemed a world away 12 months ago.

Not all are convinced. But the manager has done enough to warrant a new contract and that is truly the next phase of his grand plan.

For those who don't believe in the football factor, the ticket sales are a real win for the FAI on the back on a period where their name and brand was struggling.

Qualification for Euro 2024 is the ultimate goal and a chance to truly revolutionise Irish football.

Belgium are the first of two friendlies in the coming days, as Lithuania visit on Tuesday, with little riding on the games.

However, momentum is with Kenny and Irish team and the vital part of this window is not to lose it.

Kenny's new deal ends the debate over the short-term vision and while he said he was never worried, the end of the distraction is most certainly welcome.

Ireland's small player pool, compared to Belgium, has to be recognised as well.

As Kenny acknowledges, the experimenting is over. However some players must get minutes now because there will be a time again when a squad is needed and two friendlies will not come up again.


At the start of this international period, few selection debates are raging. Caoimhin Kelleher has had to bide his time for opportunities in the green shirt and opportunity knocks this week with two likely starts due to the withdrawal of the number one and three 'keepers (Mark Travers).

While it is unlikely Kelleher can do anything to take the shirt from his rival for the Nations League games in the summer, it will at least be a proper taste of international football which has only added to his club frustrations.

Elsewhere Kenny will certain look at the two-game scenario on how to use his players.

Mark Sykes of League 1 side Oxford United will hope for a debut in midfield. Goalkeeping duo Max O'Leary and James Talbot may see some minutes as a substitute while in-form Jimmy Dunne is likely to get a chance to replicate his club form at QPR in the second game.

This match may represent a more settled Irish team due to the strength of the opposition.

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The usual balance of right-backs will be needed and the fact Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty have busy finishes to their season upcoming should be factored in.

Nathan Collins has long been on the fringes of a breakthrough so this could be a chance to see more of the Burnley defender.

Outside of Sykes, Kenny is quite familiar with his midfield options but again getting them in sync for the upcoming Nations League games will be in his mind.

Connor Ronan has also been impressing for his club and will aim for a debut further up the pitch, while Scott Hogan is also back in the mix.

Callum Robinson has not been able to repeat his form with Ireland in the Championship so Kenny will be aiming to grow his confidence with just six goals.

The Ireland squad in full is:

Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), James Talbot (Bohemians), Max O'Leary (Bristol City).

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion), John Egan (Sheffield United), Nathan Collins (Burnley), Dara O'Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Jimmy Dunne (Queens Park Rangers).

Midfielders: Conor Hourihane (Sheffield United, on loan from Aston Villa), Josh Cullen (Anderlecht), Jeff Hendrick (QPR, on loan from Newcastle United), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jason Knight (Derby County), Mark Sykes (Oxford United).

Forwards: Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion), Troy Parrott (MK Dons, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Will Keane (Wigan Athletic), Scott Hogan (Birmingham City), Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United), Connor Ronan (St Mirren, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers).


Belgium were promised as star opposition in this game to celebrate a century of Irish football, but there is a caveat that they are leaving some big names behind.

Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard are not included in the squad as part of an agreement where 50+ cap players are left behind.

Fans of the cross-channel football will know of Liverpool's Divock Origi and Leicester City's Youri Tielemans for example, and the group is still of significant quality.

Christian Benteke and Leandro Trossard are also present, while there is one figure that the many Manchester United fans on these shores will recall.

Adnan Januzaj is in the squad along with several uncapped players.

Belgian football fans who look their own domestic game will be familiar with Josh Cullen of Anderlecht and he is a likely starter for the Irish team.


An experimental game for the visitors and one for Ireland to focus on performance.

As one of the leading nations, Belgium will be expected to come away with the win but Ireland will look to repeat the spirit and impressive style of their football in recent matches.

Follow Republic of Ireland v Belgium via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and RTÉ News app, or listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 from 5pm