Whatever happens in the Euro 2020 qualifiers or indeed at the summers tournament, the Republic of Ireland are getting a new manager next year when Stephen Kenny takes over from Mick McCarthy.
The date isn't known, nor are at the opposition but it could be a baptism of fire for the current Under-21 manager as he takes over in the summer ahead of what's likely to be a tough Nations League campaign in the autumn.
The decision to reshape the competition into four-team groups means that Ireland have been handed a reprieve having been relegated to the third tier in the inaugural Nations League. They will now remain in the second tier, but that also means a higher calibre of opponent.
So how will Kenny's new Ireland line-up? The former Dundalk boss has shown a fondness for a flexible 4-3-3 formation throughout his career and under that assumption, we pick the team for his first game here.
Ireland's current first choice goalkeeper seems to be among those most certain to retain their place in the team under new management.
Aside from Sheffield Wednesday’s Keiren Westwood, Randolph has little competition for his spot and the likes of Caoimhin Kelleher and Mark Travers will need more senior first team experience with their respective clubs or out on loan before they’re likely to challenge for the number one jersey.
A rumoured move from Middlesbrough to West Ham in January would further cement the 32-year-old’s place in the Irish team and Randolph will likely be the first name on Kenny’s team-sheet.
Kenny's fondness for over-lapping fullbacks is well known and there have been few better performers in that role than Doherty for Wolves in the last year.
Doherty has been forced to play second fiddle to Ireland skipper Seamus Coleman and current manager Mick McCarthy has been clear in his view that the two cannot be accommodated in the team together, a point he feels was proven in March’s 1-0 victory away to Gibraltar.
As skipper, Coleman remains McCarthy’s first choice at right-back despite having seen his performance levels drop for club and country in the wake of some serious injuries.
The Killybegs man will be 32 next year and with a new manager coming looking to build towards the 2022 World Cup, the younger Doherty looks a far more enticing proposition at right-back.
Along with the goalkeeper, centre-back is the position likely to see the most continuity between the McCarthy and Kenny era and like now, it appears that it’ll be two from John Egan, Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clarke, with the last most likely to be the odd man out.
In the few games that they have played together for Ireland there’s already been the sense that Egan and Duffy could be a partnership to build the defence around.
The performance of Egan was one of the few high-points in the scoreless draw in Georgia and having already captained Ireland in a friendly win over Bulgaria, you wouldn’t bet against him claiming the armband on a more permanent basis.
Perhaps the most reliable and consistent performer for Ireland over the last couple of years, it’s hard to see how Duffy would not retain his place at the heart of the Irish defence.
A leader and a real presence at the back Duffy also offers a genuine threat in attack from dead-balls.
After finding himself on the bench for his club at the start of the season, Duffy has forced his way back into the starting XI at Brighton and shows little sign of letting go of his spot. It’s going to be even more difficult for anyone to dislodge him for Ireland.
Currently first-choice left-back for high-flying Sheffield United as well as Ireland, it's hard to see anyone shifting Stevens.
The former Shamrock Rovers man has been one of the most consistent players for his club this season and despite a few erratic performances for Ireland, he is playing and performing at a much higher level than the likes of Greg Cunningham or Ryan Manning.
Stevens also offers that most crucial of ingredients in a modern team – pace. Opta recently revealed that the Sheffield United man is second only to Marcus Rashford as the quickest player in the Premier League this season, and with the option of Matt Doherty on the opposite wing, there’s the prospect of a real threat from the full-back position for Ireland.
By any measure, 2019 has been a year to remember for Jack Byrne. From a stand out season with Shamrock Rovers that saw him voted the PFAI player of the year, to making his full international debut against Bulgaria, Byrne has undergone a renaissance.
The former Manchester City youth player may have been written off by some before this season but at 23 he still has a full career ahead of him and one in which he can cement his place in the Ireland set-up.
There’s been plenty to get excited about for Irish supporters from the glimpses that they’ve already seen and Byrne is showing himself to be the kind of creative and inventive midfielder that can conjure something out of nothing and unlock defences with his range of passing.
Under previous regimes you’d worry about their view of a player plying his trade in the League of Ireland, but Kenny is a man steeped in domestic football and he’ll be aware of just what Byrne can offer.
Given Kenny’s preference for playing a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 a second reliable presence in the holding midfield position is essential and that’s exactly what Preston’s Alan Browne can offer.
Browne’s versatility and reliability have seen him become an almost ever present in Alex Neill’s Championship side and there’s a calmness to his play that belies his still relatively young age.
Capable of playing the box-to-box role and filling at full-back as well, Browne will most likely be up against Josh Cullen for the main defensive midfield role.
However with the latter ruled out for up to three months with ankle ligament damage and his future at West Ham uncertain, Browne will have the chance to really push his claims over the next few months as Preston mount their promotion challenge.
Having recently forced his way into McCarthy’s midfield, Conor Hourihane shows little sign of giving up his place without a fight.
There’ll be plenty of competition for that midfield spot, not least from Kenny’s Under-21 captain Jayson Molumby, who will be confident of his ability to follow his manager into the senior side.
However with Molumby on loan at Championship strugglers Millwall and Hourihane plying his trade in the Premier League with Aston Villa, the 28-year-old Cork native has the advantage if he can ensure he’s playing regularly.
That could be an issue for Hourihane who is battling it out for a regular starting spot in the Villa midfield, but he’s featured heavily for his club in the last few months and if he can keep that up in the second half of the season, he should be able to convince Kenny he’s worthy of a start.
One the two most exciting prospects for Ireland along with Troy Parrott, Connolly is already a fully fledged Ireland international and will be more than optimistic that he can retain his place in the set-up under the new manager.
Still just 19, Connolly has established himself as a Premier League regular for Brighton and hasn’t looked fazed or intimidated when he’s come up against the best that league has to offer.
And Under-21 level Kenny has already seen just how well Connolly and Parrott link-up and it would be a real statement of intent from the new manager to start off his new era by continuing to show faith in that duo.
Under Kenny, Parrott has already graduated from the Under-21s to the senior Ireland squad and there’s little reason to believe that he won’t cement his spot in the squad and the team next year.
The Dubliner already has the admiration of the incoming manager and also appears to have caught the eye of new club manager Jose Mourinho.
Not always known for his promotion of youth, the realities of working under a reduced budget and Daniel Levy may force Mourinho’s hand into fast-tracking Parrott but this is a player that already looks like Premier League material.
That Mourinho is reported to have blocked any talk of a loan move for Parrott bodes well.
There are few harder working front men in the Premier League and although McGoldrick has been struggling to find the net for Sheffield United this season, his work-rate and selflessness means that he’s starting place with the Blades is never is danger.
McGoldrick has proved to be just as important for Ireland under Mick McCarthy and is likely to retain his place in the set-up under Kenny.
Given the relative inexperience of the likes of Connolly and Parrot, having an experienced campaigner like McGoldrick to help lead the line will prove invaluable and the workrate and running that frontman gets through, would help make things easier for the likes of Parrott and Connolly.