Ireland World Cup predicted squad: Keary is in

Ireland doesn’t scream rugby league powerhouse, but they might well be able to shock the world come October.

The Wolfhounds have exited at the Group Stage in the last two World Cups, but in neither could you say that saw any of the famed national propensity for luck.

In 2013, they got lumped into a group with Australia, England and Fiji, or three of the four semi-finalists, and then in 2017, a quirk of the draw saw them depart the tournament despite winning two from three, when Samoa went through despite not winning at all. No, don’t ask why.

Demographics are everything in sport and Ireland have plenty of them: the biggest ethnic minority in the North of England is Irish people – though some have been there so long that they no longer qualify under the grandparent rule – and, in case you missed it, the diaspora is fairly present in Australia too.

Ireland will have a team filled with Super League talent and sprinkled with NRL players. They have a decent group, too: Jamaica first in what should be a blockbuster in Leeds, given the prevalence of both communities within the city, then Lebanon, then New Zealand. Ireland could be through by the time they face the Kiwis.

Make no mistake, too, this isn’t a passport XIII with no roots. The Irish domestic comp goes from strength to strength and they will be able to field teams in the men’s, wheelchair and PDRL competitions, with the women likely to qualify in 2025 too.

Ronan Michael will be the star recruit and the first domestically-produced player to feature at the World Cup since living legend Brian Carney turned out in 2000. Even for sentimental reasons, he’ll get picked.

That 2000 tournament is the benchmark. Coach Ged Corcoran has spoken repeatedly about bringing back the spirit of the team that pushed England all the way in the quarter finals that year and featured Luke Ricketson, Kevin Campion, Barrie McDermott, Chris Joynt, Steve Prescott, Terry O’Connor and I could go on.

A young, misty-eyed Ireland fan stood in the rain that night in Headingley to get his shirt signed by the lot of them. He’s still got it in a draw at his Ma’s house. If you were expecting impartiality in this squad preview, you might have to go elsewhere for it.


Ireland benefit from a relatively settled squad of Super League talent. George King of Hull KR will captain the side, they have stalwarts like Brad Singleton, Oliver Roberts, Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Kyle Amor as well as stars of the qualification campaign like Liam Byrne, Ethan Ryan and James Bentley.

Warrington is the most Catholic – read, Irish – town in England and will provide a lot of talent: fullback Josh Thewlis, halfback Riley Dean, backrowers Joe Philbin and Ben Currie, prop Rob Mulhern and centre Toby King, brother of captain George.

Toby has been on loan at Huddersfield, who will provide brothers Louis and Innes Senior. Like any Gaelic football team, you’re not legitimate in Irish sport unless you can field at least two sets of brothers and preferably several cousins as well.

Liam Kay, the Wakefield winger. Well, we say winger…he’s actually played as a hooker a lot in the past 12 months, so would likely go on the bench in that capacity.

If the hybrid winger/hooker combination sounds strange, let me introduce you to Seamus McCallion: he represented Ireland in the 1990s while also being the team physio. What happened if he got injured? No idea.




The NRL contingent are a little more unsettled, because they haven’t featured in the past for a whole host of reasons. Fitness permitting, Luke Keary is a huge in and will likely play at halfback alongside Richie Myler of Leeds. It’s possible that Myler switches to fullback, however, with Dean playing 7 and Keary at 6.

Morgan Harper is eligible and, unless the Kiwis come calling, is set to turn out in green. Jaimin Jolliffe of the Titans is also pretty much confirmed.


Henry O’Kane, a standout in the Wests Tigers system, is eligible could play if get gets suitable wraps from Joe O’Callaghan, a coach in the Souths system who will assist Corcoran with Ireland. If Harry Rushton is back from his jaw injury, he will certainly play.

Michael McIlorum is a shoo-in if he decides to play, but he’s a Shaun Wane favourite and might well get an England call. The 9 position is tough for Ireland if Micky Mac doesn’t feature: Josh Cook of the Bulldogs NSW Cup team could be an option, as could Josh Daley of Mounties.

Ireland have plenty of names who are potentially eligible but yet to be confirmed: Rumour has it Bulldogs young gun Declan Casey might have a grandparent that can be found, and if that doesn’t interest you, how about a Pat Carrigan, Josh Curran and Dale Finucane?

Your humble Irish rugby league journo is on the case with all of them…

Predicted Ireland squad

1 Josh Thewlis
2 Ethan Ryan
3 Toby King
4 Morgan Harper
5 Innes Senior
6 Richie Myler
7 Luke Keary
8 Liam Byrne
9 Josh King
10 Jaimin Jolliffe
11 Oliver Roberts
12 Joe Philbin
13 George King
14 Kyle Amor
15 Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook
16 Liam Kay
17 Brad Singleton
18 James Bentley
19 Sam Wood
20 Ben Currie
21 Louis Senior
22 Riley Dean
23 Rob Mulhern
24 Ronan Michael

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