So far 20 Irish player’s have featured in England’s top tier this season. That’s an increase of five from the 18/19 season when only 15 managed to get game time.
Obviously playing in the Premier League doesn’t exactly guarantee that you will be a success in the green Jersey though. It also shouldn’t be used as the main way to measure if a player is good enough to play for the Irish senior team. Their are plenty of players in the lower tiers of English football and the league of Ireland that could have and probably should have featured by now for Mick McCarthy’s team. We shouldn’t have to wait too long to see a few new faces though, with the amount of young talent coming through, and Stephen Kenny taking charge next summer.
The Premier League is still one of the top destinations for Irish footballers. Ask most young player’s where they want to be in a few years time and the answer will probably be England. It can’t be a bad thing that the number of player’s competing at such a high level is on the rise, mixing it with some of the best players and coaches in Europe week in week out. And for those numbers to grow has to be seen as a positive. Yes, it means that the best talent in the League of Ireland will probably move on sooner rather than later, but that is something that can’t really be helped. It’s just something the League will have to try and adapt too.
Here’s a look at the top five Irish player’s with the most minutes played so far:
ENDA STEVENS – 2160 MINUTES
Their is a lot to admire about Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United side so far this season. They are one of the standout performers so far. To compare them to Liverpool wouldn’t be totally outlandish either. Both club’s set out long term plans over the course of a number of season’s and backed their manager’s to achieve them. They both also play slightly different systems to all the other teams around them in the league, and their fullbacks are essential to making them tick. Thankfully for us, one of those fullbacks is Irish. Having previously played in the Premier League with Aston Villa in the 2012/13 season, Enda Steven’s return has been a remarkable success so far. He’s become an essential part to how this Sheffield side play, which is reflected in the fact that he has played every minute of the season so far. He is solid at the back and clever going forward, with the ability to beat his man and play quick passes linking up well with the forwards. He has two goals and just the single assist so far, but those stats don’t do his performances justice. We have yet to see the best out of him in a green Jersey, especially going forward. Hopefully that will change with the arrival of Stephen Kenny.
JOHN EGAN – 2059 MINUTES
Another essential cog in the Sheffield United machine is John Egan. The centre back has played nearly every game this season in the league, only missing a handful of minutes. He usually plays as the middle central defender in their back three. Sheffield have kept eight cleans sheets so far this season, which equates to one in every three games. An impressive stat considering they have only just returned to top flight football. With Richard Keogh currently out with a serious injury, and in all probability never looking like he will play for Ireland again, Egan has stepped into his spot, featuring in Ireland’s final three qualifiers. Carlo Ancelotti is also said to be keen on bringing the Cork native to Merseyside in the near future.
MATT DOHERTY – 1700 MINUTES
It’s a very Irish problem that probably our most talented footballer has barely featured for us at all since his emergence as one of the best full backs in the Premier League. But that’s the situation Matt Doherty has found himself in. For his club side though it has been the opposite situation, as he has carried his brilliant form over from last season into the current one. Doherty’s slightly unorthodox style of cutting in from the right, unlike traditional attacking wing backs who like to get to the byline and cross a ball, has seen him thrive in the league, turning him into one of the best player’s in his position. So far he’s he’s featured in 22 of Wolves league games this season, and has also played a key part in their Europa League campaign, playing in all five of their group games. Will he feature in Ireland’s playoff tie against Slovakia? The answer should certainly be yes, but it remains to be seen if McCarthy will include him.
JEFF HENDRICK – 1485 MINUTES
Remember the Jeff Hendrick of Euro 2016? Those were the day’s. His driving runs, deft touches and of course his shithousing against the French. He was easily one of Ireland’s most exciting player’s at the tournament, and the one that looked like he could kick on and become one of our most important player’s. I’m not sure what happened to that player. Maybe he wasn’t even that good? Maybe we just kind of imagined it, high on the fumes of Robbie Brady’s goals. Since then his career has stalled but he is still getting regular enough football with Burnley and has shown the odd glimpse of good play in a green shirt. So far this season he has featured 19 times and played in both their recent victories against Leicester and Manchester United. We could really do with the 2016 version of Jeff back for the Slovakia game and if we have any aspirations of qualifying for the tournament this summer.
SEAMUS COLEMAN – 1075 MINUTES
This season has been a bit of a mixed bag so far for the Killybegs man. It got off to a great start as then Everton manager Marco Silva named Coleman club captain for the new season. Everton struggled under Silva though and found themselves in the relegation zone at one stage. During that time Coleman was one of a number of player’s to perform poorly which coincided with him being dropped to the bench and also omitted from the squad for a number of games. He has still clocked up plenty of minutes though during his 19 appearances so far, but well below what he is used to playing for the Toffees. He has yet to totally cement his spot at right back under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, who interestingly enough from an Irish perspective, has tried him out as part of a back three. Something Mick McCarthy may consider if it could make room for fellow right back Matt Doherty.