Sheffield Wednesday: Keiren Westwood hands Irish boss selection dilemma

Keiren Westwood collects the ball in the Republic of Ireland's friendly with Uruguay in Dublin.
Keiren Westwood collects the ball in the Republic of Ireland's friendly with Uruguay in Dublin.
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He has enjoyed another outstanding season for his club.

And now Wednesday star Keiren Westwood will be hoping he can end a gruelling campaign on a positive note.

The 32-year-old shone in the Republic of Ireland’s 3-1 friendly victory over Uruguay on Sunday.

Westwood, named the Owls’ player of the year, was introduced as a half-time substitute and he produced a solid display. The experienced goalkeeper pulled off a superb one-handed save to deny lively Atletico Madrid star José Giménez and keep the Irish’s 2-1 lead intact.

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Strikes by Jonathan Walters, Cyrus Christie and James McClean ensured the Irish brushed aside their South American opponents.

Westwood, capped 20 times by his country, is looking to reclaim the number one jersey from Darren Randolph, who was unconvincing in the first half against Uruguay and partially to blame for Giménez’s equaliser.

It has been a difficult year for Randolph, who has lost his place in West Ham United’s starting line-up, and Westwood will be keeping his fingers crossed that he has played himself into contention for the Republic’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Austria next weekend. Martin O’Neill’s side welcome Austria to Dublin on Sunday. The Irish lie joint top of Group D with Serbia after five matches.

O’Neill admits he faces a tricky goalkeeping selection choice.

“It’s genuinely nice to have two very capable goalkeepers and there’s not a great deal between them,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of time for both goalkeepers.”

Keiren Westwood makes a save in the Republic of Ireland's friendly with Uruguay in Dublin

Keiren Westwood makes a save in the Republic of Ireland's friendly with Uruguay in Dublin

Since replacing the injured Shay Given during the Irish’s memorable 1-0 win over Germany in a Euro 2016 qualifier at the Aviva Stadium, Randolph has made the No 1 spot his own.

“From the moment that Darren’s come in as a sub against Germany, he hasn’t done a great deal wrong,” said O’Neill.

“Westwood has been really patient waiting in the wings. I know Keiren well myself — a very talented goalkeeper.”

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Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill

O’Neill worked closely with Westwood at Sunderland.

He said: “Keiren is Keiren. I’ve known him for some time and personally I think, as talent goes, he has enough to play in the Premier League. No question about that.

“I want him to have the enthusiasm and ambition to do so. But that’s up to him. I like Keiren but he’s in a wee world of his own.

“Westwood is a top-class goalkeeper, a real natural talent. To go to the very, very top, you need not to just have natural talent but also drive, determination and everything else.

“If he keeps himself properly fit and doesn’t sustain serious injuries then goalkeepers can go for a fairly lengthy time.

“He’s highly-thought-of at Sheffield Wednesday; he’s done really well over the last couple of years there. His kicking, he pings the ball all over the pitch. He can place 50-yard balls to people.

Republic of Ireland goalkeepers Keiren Westwood (right) and Darren Randolph

Republic of Ireland goalkeepers Keiren Westwood (right) and Darren Randolph

“He’s a really fine goalkeeper and he’s actually a really good lad but he needs moving.”

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