It all seemed simple not so long ago. A long-ball out of defence would be flicked on the by the head of Niall Quinn and then Robbie Keane would scurry in front of the flat-footed defence to poke it home.

Kevin Doyle came in to replace Quinn upon the elder's retirement but the trick was still a good one, dangerous ball to the edge of the box, nodded on by Doyle to Keane, goal.

Football has moved on since then and the two up top partnership of the big man and the poacher are out of vogue.

There is however more than a chance that we’ll at least get the classic big man helping to lead the line tonight against the Slovakians, in the shape of David McGoldrick.

The Sheffield United frontman has become a cult figure around Bramall Lane, not for his goals but for his hard work and his all-around contribution to the team.

Outsiders looking in at the Blades last season would have rightly questioned McGoldrick’s ever presence in United team. It wasn’t until July that McGoldrick finally opened his Premier League account but his place in the side was never under threat despite his lack of goals.

McGoldrick is key to the Sheffield United strategy of creating overloads out on the wing as he drops deep into space to offer himself up as an extra option on the flanks, linking up with the likes of Enda Stevens to build a platform to attack from.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has already signalled McGoldrick’s importance to his set-up and he looks set to employ the frontman in the exact same fashion as his club manager does.

"He has been an adaptable player," the Irish boss explained. "In a front two he drops off and that’s what a 3-5-2 gives you the opportunity of doing, he can link up the play. David can do that with his back to goal and can see key opportunities for other players."

With McGoldrick as the hard-working linkman, that leaves space for another more direct goal-threat and Kenny is in the fortunate position of having two in-form attackers to choose from.

Aaron Connolly has plenty to offer

Both Aaron Connolly and Callum Robinson have had strong starts to the Premier League campaign and both are pushing for a starting place against Slovakia.

Connolly sat out Monday’s training session due to the Irish team 'managing his workload’ but trained on Tuesday and is very much in contention to start.

More likely to feature on the left than through the centre, Connolly has impressed in the Premier League for Brighton this season and got off the mark with a fine curling effort from the edge of the penalty area. More of the same against Slovakia would be a welcome treat.

Connolly is still searching for his first international goal but has an understanding of just what is required under Kenny, having played and scored for him at Under-21 level.

In another era McGoldrick and Connolly would be lining up alongside each other up front in that classic big man/little man strike partnership but as things stand, they’re more likely to be combining down the left channel than through the middle.

Robinson has also enjoyed a fine start to the Premier League season and has featured in all four of West Brom’s game, helping himself to a brace of goals in his side’s 3-3 draw with Chelsea.

Much like Connolly, Robinson has been more used to playing out wide with Ireland and there’s an argument for him to be deployed on the right wing, but as he’s already shown for his club this season, he’s more than capable of doing a job through the middle.

An aggressive and attacking front line of all three, with McGoldrick central, Robinson on the right and Connolly out left isn’t beyond the realms of possibility but in all likelihood it would appear that Robinson may have to content himself with a place on the bench.

Could this be the front two we need?

Robinson's versatility across the front has been both a help and a hindrance to him. His ability to slot in anywhere in the attacking line-up means he’s a valuable player to have but he’s also been unable to nail down a place as the main focus in the front-line.

As the player himself explained: "For Preston North End I played a lot on the left, for Ireland I’ve played a lot on the right, last season I was on the left and right, and this season I’ve been playing through the middle for the first four games of the season. I enjoy playing in any of those positions; I enjoy playing in the final third and trying to be a threat from the left, right, or up front.

"It’s good for me as it helps me get into the squads and hopefully I can push for that starting spot."

That starting spot looks likely to elude him this time out, but don’t discount the impact he can coming off the bench.

Whoever does start though there is no getting away from the fact that despite their ability and promise the trio only have two international goals between – one for McGoldrick and one for Robinson.

When Kenny looks through his likely starters against Slovakia there is a clear lack of goals throughout the starting XI and indeed the squad.

Shane Long and James McClean have both hit double figure – Long with 17 and McClean on 10 – but their best days are behind both of them and while they might be able to offer something off the bench late on, neither can be relied upon as 90 minute men anymore.

Robbie Brady, who has nine goals, is closer to being involved in the starting XI and Kenny might have to make a tough call between him and Conor Hourihane although concerns over a still recovering rib injury for Brady may give Hourihane the nod.

A couple more from this man would be welcome

Of the likely starters against Slovakia it’s central defender Shane Duffy who has the most goals for his country with four and taking away the optimistic green-colour glasses, he’s likely to be Ireland’s biggest goal threat from dead balls.

The big centre-back is a massive presence in the air and has already scored twice for Celtic this season.

Duffy’s knack for scoring big goals with his head could be crucial for a side that have struggled to create and convert chances in recent years. Elsewhere it really is difficult to see where the goals might come from.

Matt Doherty, certain to play due to Seamus Coleman’s absence, has shown that given the chance he has the ability and nous to get himself into the right positions to score, but whether or not Kenny will give him the same licence to get forward as he does in the Premier League remains to be seen.

It’s likely to be a game of very tight margins and while it’s hard to see Ireland open up and go all out to attack, one goal may well be enough for us, whoever gets it.

Follow Slovakia v Republic of Ireland (Thursday, 7.45pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player from 7pm or listen to live commentary on RTÉ 2fm's Game On.