Brian Kerr hopes Wes Hoolahan will be afforded a starting spot when the Republic of Ireland take on Bosnia-Herzegovina in the second leg of their Euro 2016 qualification play off at Aviva Stadium tonight.

Hoolahan played the first hour of Friday’s first leg in Zenica before making way for James McClean while the match was still scoreless.   

Despite a relatively anonymous display from the Norwich playmaker in the 1-1 draw, where Robbie Brady saw his opening goal cancelled out out by Edin Dzeko, the former Ireland manager remains convinced that second leg could provide the diminutive Dubliner with the perfect platform to display his guile and vision.

“I don’t think it’s by any means a foregone conclusion, but I think we’ll get there narrowly”

“I hope Wes Hoolahan starts,” Kerr told RTÉ Sport. "I think we’ll have more of the ball tonight and I think that it’ll be important that we use Wes and get the ball to his feet and let him try and create a goal or two.

“If we could get a two-goal lead and have a little bit of comfort that would be brilliant, but I think that’s unlikely.”

Ireland’s ranks have been boosted by the potential return to the fray of a number of key personnel, including John Walters, Shane Long and John O’Shea.

However, Kerr was reluctant to second-guess manager Martin O’Neill’s line-up ahead of kick-off, admitting: “It’s usually quite difficult to read Martin in advance of matches.

“The team is often a little bit different from what one would think it might be when discussing it in advance of the game. But tonight I don’t think we’ll see too many changes.

“The fact that John O’Shea - he would lend a lot of experience coming in at the centre-back position, but he hasn’t played for a few weeks now - and the centre-back pairing were outstanding on Friday night in Sarajevo.”

Stephen Ward’s failure to secure regular first-team football this season was brought into sharp focus by his ineffectual efforts to get to grips with lively winger Edin Visca on Friday night, with Marc Wilson replacing the Burnley man at full-back in the second half.

“He had a yellow card early in the match the other night and I think he was on a fine line for most of the second half. I thinks that’s why the substitution was made - because Edin Visca, the outside right, was causing problems.

“Marc Wilson came in and he did okay. I thought his position on the goal wasn’t particularly good. He’s’ slightly steadier than Stephen Ward, but Stephen Ward gives a little bit more going forward, given the fact that he was a centre forward in his youth.”

One man that Kerr can’t see being omitted is Stoke striker Jon Walter, with Kerr adding: “I think Jon Walters will be in whether he’s on the right or through the middle. That could depend on how Daryl Murphy is.

Analysing how Ireland will address the match, Kerr opined: “They don’t have to go for it, but I think as the manager said yesterday, if they try and dig in and defend this slightest of advantages that they have, that would be very dangerous.

“I think they need to be careful, cautious, but also try and take as much possession of the ball as possible and play the match in the opposition’s half.

“Their manager Mehmed Bazdarevic will be emphasising to his team that they are still very much in it, even if we score the first goal.

“I think we’ll see a lot more passing football than we did on Friday. I think both teams will be better. I think the Bosnia and Herzegovina team will play a lot more football and there’s plenty of danger and goals in their team still. 

“I don’t think it’s by any means a foregone conclusion, but I think we’ll get there narrowly.”

Bosnia & H 1-1 Republic of Ireland: Panel


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