The FA Cup third round is often considered a chance for younger players to get an opportunity in senior football and some Irish players certainly took it this year. These young lads put their names in the hat for potential selection in the league and cup again with the performances they put in, in this round particularly as they are playing for clubs that are relatively struggling this season. If these youngsters can continue the form, they’ve started in the cup they’re sure to be on Mick McCarthy’s shortlist for selection in future Ireland squads and even the Euro playoffs. One of these men could make a difference in Ireland qualifying for the Euros and they will have first made their name in the FA Cup 3rd round.
Conor Masterson: QPR 5 Swansea 1
The highly touted former Liverpool youngster is yet to really make his mark on the Senior game yet. Masterson did shine for the Liverpool under 23s side and was thought of very well by the club even having the potential to one day break into the first team. But this potential never really translated into any game time for Masterson and he eventually joined QPR on a free transfer following a 5 year spell at the club. He had not yet made an appearance for QPR until this third round fixture with Swansea. Now that he has played he certainly impressed earning plaudits for his great composure on the ball and his ability to pick out a pass. These are certainly qualities Ireland have been looking for in a Central Defender and Masterson may just be able to bring that other aspect of the defensive game to compliment Shane Duffy or John Egan. On top of this Masterson was also solid defensivly making no real mistakes and played a key role in his sides victory of a strong Swansea City team.
Adam Idah: Preston 2 Norwich 4
The Ireland under 21 International may just have put in the best performance of any Irish player in the FA Cup so far this season. Going into the game Idah was being touted for a loan move away from Carrow Road to destinations throughout league 1 and the Championship however following a staggering display against Preston he is surely now in contention to stake a claim to a first team place at Norwich. Idah got off to a roaring start with a goal in just the second minute after a brilliantly timed run and neat finish. Then just before half time Idah managed something really special. The Preston keeper had come out to clear the ball with it falling to Idah 40 yard from goal. Idah then proceeded to lob the keeper with another stunning finish. Following this Idah rounded it all off by winning a penalty and then slotting it home himself for a Scintillating hattrick. If Idah can carry this form, he has showed into the league throughout the rest of the season he is sure to be near the top of Mick McCarthy’s Euro Playoffs shortlist.
William Smallbone: Southampton 2 Huddersfield 0
Coming into this game many people probably had never even heard of William Smallbone let alone know who he played for or what position he played. Well after his performance against Huddersfield it’s fair to say that a lot more people will be looking out for the 19-year-old now. The under 19 Ireland international made a promising start to his debut having some moments of quality on the ball early on in the game. He had some early attempts on goal which never really troubled the Huddersfield net. Following these early attempts, Smallbone nearly picked up a fine assist following a really neat touch that put through his Irish compatriot but Shane Longs effort was disallowed by VAR. Eventually however Smallbones moment did arise as the ball fell to him about 12 yard from goal. Smallbone thumped home a volley to give Southampton the lead and to ensure a debut goal. Overall Smallbone had an impressive debut and may be one to look out for in future Ireland squads.
As the FA Cup has become more about resting a club’s star players it has also become a place were youngster can finally get a chance in the team that they have been playing with for years. This has certainly benefited many Irish youngsters throughout the years and this year was no different as these 3 prospects grasped their chance and all played vital roles in their teams going into the fourth round draw and may be giving themselves a chance of being considered for future Ireland squads.