Despite Cyrus Christie, Harry Arter and the newly retired Jonathan Walters all saying goodbye to Premier League football for the 2019/20 season, there is still a sizeable collection of capped Irish internationals for the Irish faithful to keep tabs on, who will be plying their trade in England’s top flight for the new football season.
In total, as of the first gameweek of Premier League action, there are 15 Irish internationals for Mick McCarrthy and his coaching staff to watch in the Premier League this season, a list of players which will be of considerable interest to all Irish football fans interested in keeping themselves well in the loop regarding the form of Mick McCarthy’s top squad members before Ireland’s final crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers in the coming months.
We fittingly kick off our list of the Premier League’s Irish internationals with the Irish international team captain Séamus Coleman, who will be playing in his eleventh consecutive Premier League campaign with Everton this season. Since making his Premier League debut on the blue half of Merseyside in the 2009/10 season, Coleman has been an exemplary professional and the very definition of consistent at right back for the Toffees. He quickly claimed a starting position for one of the Premier League’s biggest and most established sides upon joining the squad, and has managed to make that position his own for his entire tenure with the club.
His service to Everton has earned him the respect of the fans and his peers, earning himself the captaincy of his club for the new season to go along with his Irish captain’s armband. He will face competition from Everton’s new signing, out of form Frenchman Djibril Sidibe who will be looking at his new club as an opportunity to regain his form, and re-announce himself on the global stage. However, the established Coleman will certainly still be one of the first names on the team sheet at Goodison Park this season as he prepares to lead Ireland into their final Euro 2030 qualifiers later this year.
Regardless of whether you believe that his best days are behind him, very few Irish internationals are as seasoned in England’s top flight as the Southampton centre forward Shane Long who, like Coleman, will enjoy his 11th season in England’s top flight this season. Long is yet to be capped for the Boys in Green under Mick McCarthy, with his last international appearance coming in Ireland’s 1-0 loss to Wales in October 2018, and with his latest years being marked with long goal droughts and lack of form, it is tough to imagine Long playing much of a role in Ireland’s remaining Euro 2020 qualifiers.
However, you can’t rule out the veteran striker, who will be hungry to repair his reputation and earn himself a spot in Mick McCarthy’s squad this season. Shane Long will be an interesting player to watch from an irish perspective as this could well be a career defining season for him.
The final Irish player to be playing in his 11th campaign in the Premier League, is Seamus Coleman’s former clubmate, and new Crystal Palace signing, James McCarthy. The veteran midfielder will be hoping to finally put his career-halting leg break, suffered all the way back in January 2018 behind him in the 2019/20 season. The leg break which he suffered over a year and a half ago put an abrupt end to his 2017/18 season and allowed him to make only one substitute appearance in last season’s Premier League campaign.
A fully fit and on form James McCarthy would be an excellent addition to Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace side who could very well find themselves in a relegation scrap this season, and should he get himself playing at the level he once did with Everton, he will be welcomed back to the Ireland squad in timely fashion.
With 4 Irish internationals in their ranks, Sheffield United will offer Irish viewers a chance to see more of their countrymen than any other Premier League team in the 2019/20 season. Enda Stevens, has been a regular member of Mick McCarthy’s Ireland squad in the Euro 2020 qualification campaign, having nailed down the left back position as his own last season and establishing himself as a reliable name for both club and country. Stevens was one of the most impressive members of Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United side last season, as he exhibited top class defensive ability along with a contribution of 4 goals and 6 assists in The Blades’ successful promotion campaign. Stevens will hope to carry his form into the 2019/20 Premier League season, and should he manage to do so, he will catch the eye of many Irish fans this season.
At the heart of the Sheffield United defence, you will find John Egan. The reliable centre-back will hope to have the season of his career in order to claim a position in Mick McCarthy’s Ireland squad, in a position where McCarthy has an abundance of potentially useful options to choose from. Egan was a key part of Chris Wilder’s acclaimedSheffield United side last season and he will hope to carry on his form and prove himself at the highest level this season. You can read more about John Egan, from another article which is solely dedicated to Egan on SportsNewsIreland to read about the potentially career defining season which is ahead of him on his return to England’s top flight.
Another player who has featured consistently for the Boys in Green under Mick McCarthy is David McGoldrick. The 31 year old attacker has endeared himself quickly to Republic of Ireland supporters with his relentless pressing, which is a quality which will undoubtedly be crucial for Mick McCarthy as well as for his club side. McGoldrick is more than just a hard working, pressing forward however, he has a lot of quality to offer the Irish national team, which he showed in the Championship last season, scoring 15 goals while playing as a second striker behind The Blades’ lethal finisher Billy Sharp. McGoldrick will be hoping to establish himself in the Premier League this season, as his goals could be crucial to Sheffield United’s Premier League campaign, as well as Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
Sheffield United’s newest Irish addition comes in the form of summer signing Callum Robinson. The young attacker will be hoping to make a mark in the 2019/20 Premier League season, which he will need to do, in all honesty to realistically earn himself a place in the Ireland squad. The versatile forward has made a couple of recent appearances in Ireland Euro 2020 qualifiers, and with 12 goals to his name in last season’s Championship season with Preston North End, Robinson looks like a potentially inspired signing by The Blades, and an exciting player to keep an eye on for Irish fans.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley had previously been the home of the highest number of Irish internationals before the emergence of Sheffield United, and they still boast a very healthy number of Irishmen in their ranks this season with 3 Irish internationals to potentially choose from in their squad. Jeff Hendrick has become an established Irish international who you will see getting frequent game time in the Burnley midfield. Hendrick is a journeyman midfielder with the ability to put in a shift in any midfield role which he is needed to perform in. This makes him a valuable addition to a squad like Burnley and indeed Ireland, where top quality options are often thin, and Hendrick provides a potential solution to many potential squad depth problems. As a result of his versatility and experience, you will see Jeff Hendrick make an appearance in the majority of Burnley’s games this season, and he will be a useful option for Mick McCarthy’s squad, for sure.
Another versatile footballer capable of offering cover in multiple positions is Burnley’s Robbie Brady. A footballer with a diverse skill set, Brady is capable of offering cover in central midfield, as well as on the wings or left wing back. Similarly to Hendrick, Brady’s usefulness as a utility player in the Burnley set-up will be highly valued by Sean Dyche, and he will be a player who will get plenty of game time, especially when Dyche’s squad inevitably gets stretched thin. Brady is another player, like clubmate Hendrick, who will almost be guaranteed to have a place in McCarthy’s Ireland squad due to his versatile nature.
The final Burnley player on this list, who you can expect to get considerably less gametime than both of his fellow clubmates, is centre-back Kevin Long. The most notable feature of Sean Dyche’s Burnley side, is the incredible defensive organisation which they exhibit on a weekly basis. Burnley have got one of the most well drilled defenses in the Premier League, and their incredible defensive organisation is a result of 1. Great coaching from Dyche, and 2. Having a back 4 which is used to playing together. Burnley’s two starting central defenders are James Tarkowski and Ben Mee. In an era where centre-backs are more often lauded for their ability on the ball, defenders who’s primary attributes are centred around keeping the ball out of the net are often unsung heroes, however these two are rightly lauded for their performances in Dyche’s Burnley side, weekly. As a result of the 2 centre-back’s ahead of him in the pecking order, Kevin Long’s minutes will be limited, and he will struggle to find the chances to impress Mick McCarthy this season.
A centre-back who will certainly not struggle to impress the Irish boss however, is Ireland’s most recent Player of the season, Brighton’s Shane Duffy. Duffy has been a rock in the Brighton defence, establishing a formidable partnership with English defender Lewis Dunk, and the popular Brighton star will unquestionably feature heavily under new boss Graham Potter this season. Duffy’s form for Brighton as well as the Boys in Green has been top quality for the past couple of seasons, and he has established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet alongside captain Séamus Coleman, due to his consistency and his impressive defensive ability. Shane Duffy will be a popular man for Irish fans to keep tabs on this season as he will surely play a pivotal role in Ireland’s remaining Euro 2020 qualifiers as the Irish look to hold onto their spot atop Group D and secure automatic qualification
One of the men who will be vying to secure his place in the Irish defence alongside Shane Duffy is veteran Newcastle centre-back Ciarán Clark. The 29 year old’s minutes were somewhat limited last season under coach Rafa Benitez at St.James’ Park, as the legendary coach preferred other options at the centre of the Newcastle defence, such as captain Jamaal Lascelles and the impressive Fabian Schar who was arguably one of the best defenders in the entire league last season. However, the new season brings new hope for Ciaran Clark as Newcastle United are now under the leadership of Steve Bruce, who may have different ideas, or a different system to the previous regime under Rafa Benitez.
Clark will be hoping to impress Bruce enough to earn more minutes than he did last season in order to secure himself a place in the Ireland squad amid vast competition for places at the centre of the Irish defence. Clark will snatch at any chance he gets for minutes to break into the team, and it will certainly be an important season for the 29 year old, in what may be his last chance to play at a major international tournament with his country.
An Irishman who impressed Premier League audiences last season is the Wolverhampton Wanderers right wing back, Matt Doherty. Doherty was one of the best in his position in the Premier League last season, starring in a very impressive Wolves side who managed to secure Europa League qualification in their first season back in the top flight. Doherty contributed 4 goals and 5 assists to a side who, despite their undeniable success, scored only 47 goals in total, which left them with the lowest goal tally in the entire top 12. With that in mind, Doherty’s offensive and defensive contribution to the impressive Wolves side cannot be understated and his skill set is one which could be of great value to Mick McCarthy, if he can be fit into the squad. Ireland’s depth at right back is clear to see, however, it provides a dilemma to Mick McCarthy about how to, or indeed, whether it is actually possible to, at all, fit these two top class right backs into the team. It would be a shame for either man to miss out on the Ireland squad, but it may be necessary.
A staple of newly promoted Aston Villa’s midfield last season, the 28 year old should be a key player for both club and country this coming season. Playing alongside Glenn Whelan last season, Hourihane looks to be the successor to Glenn Whelan in the Irish national team, and then some. Hourihane has a passing range which would turn the head of any admirer of good midfield play. He is a solid holding midfielder who is a welcome addition to the base of the midfield for Aston Villa and the Republic of Ireland. One of his most useful attributes is his set piece taking ability, which he has already put to good use in an Irish shirt. Hourihane was one of the most impressive midfielders in the Championship last season and more than played his part in Aston Villa’s promotion campaign. He will be a key player for club and country, without doubt for the new season.
Last but not least on our list, is Michael Obafemi. The 19 year old Southampton striker has made just one appearance for the Irish national team as of yet, however he has committed his future to the Irish national team, a commitment which has been met with joy from Irish fans, as Obafemi looks to be one to watch very closely for the future. Though he only made one Premier League start for Southampton last season, and 6 appearances overall, Obafemi already has one goal and one assist to his name in the Premier League and the youngster will hope to add more minutes to his name as well as more goals this season in his bed to break into the Irish national team, as well as become a Southampton regular. As a clubmate of his fellow countryman, veteran striker Shane Long, the most inexperienced player on our list will undoubtedly make good use of the opportunity to learn all he can from his experienced clubmate. If he can provide the Irish faithful with some incredible memories like the ones Shane Long has down the years, he will be considered a great success by Irish fans.