List of best Republic of Ireland teenagers at EVERY Premier League club

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We take a look at the most promising Irish teenagers in the Premier League

Despite the recent disappointing results at senior level, the future looks bright for Ireland. Over the past couple of years there’s been an emergence of young Irish talent out of essentially nowhere. You could say there’s a *potential* golden generation on the way.

Some have already made their mark at senior level. Others are very much in the pipeline in terms of making their senior debuts.

We have compiled a list of the best Irish u20 players at all twenty Premier League clubs. This is in order to demonstrate the depth of Irish talent at top English clubs at the minute. It should also be noted that the Premier League is not the only source of promising Irish players. Adam Idah, Jason Knight, Luca Connell and several others are contracted to clubs in leagues separate to the Premier League.

Here are our picks for the most promising teenagers at every Premier League club.

ARSENAL

MARK MCGUINNESS – 19 – CENTRE BACK

Arsenal are a club with strong Irish links. You wouldn’t think so given their lack of Irish first team players in recent years, however. Gone are the days of Liam Brady and David O’Leary, Arsenal’s last Irish international was Joseph O’Cearuill in 2007. He wasn’t exactly an Arsenal regular, either. Prior to his international debut, he had only made a handful of senior appearances on loan at Brighton who were dwelling near the bottom of League One at the time.

Mark McGuinness is one of the number of Irish players at Arsenal. He will hope to follow in O’Cearuill’s footsteps by becoming a senior Ireland international in the coming years. McGuinness is a towering, commanding centre back who is also more than capable of playing out from the back. He’s currently on loan at Ipswich in League One. He impressed against them in an EFL Trophy for Arsenal u21s game prior to his move. He recently made his senior debut for Ipswich against Gillingham and by the accounts of fans, he didn’t look out of place at all.

McGuinness also qualifies for Northern Ireland (through ancestry) and England (through birth) but remains committed to the Republic for the time being, at least. There’s a good chance he could be involved with the Ireland u21s in the next few months. That is if he can get more senior experience under his belt.

Honourable mention(s): Mazeed Ogungbo (18), Jordan McEneff (19).

 

ASTON VILLA

TYREIK WRIGHT – 19 – WINGER

Tyreik Wright joined Aston Villa from Lakewood AFC in his native Cork back in 2018. Since then, he has made quite an impression. He currently plays for Aston Villa u23s in the Premier League 2. He has played 5 times this season so far, contributing a goal and an assist.

Wright was an accomplished Gaelic footballer but chose to pursue soccer instead. So far, that decision has paid off. Wright has represented Ireland from u17 to u19 level to date including appearances at the 2019 u19 European Championships. His most impressive achievement in an Ireland shirt to date was scoring 4 goals against Gibraltar u19s in a game which ended 13-0.

Wright is a tricky winger who can play on either side of the pitch. He recently trained with the Aston Villa first team so it might not be long until he gets a first team chance, be it in a cup game or otherwise.

Honourable Mention(s): Aaron O’Reilly (16), Louie Barry* (17).

* implies player is eligible for Ireland but has most recently played for a different country.

 

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

JAMES FURLONG – 18 – FULL BACK

There are a number of talented, young Irish players on the books of Brighton. Aaron Connolly and Jayson Molumby are the most well-known, but James Furlong is another one who could have a bright future in the game.

Furlong joined Brighton in 2019. He was embroiled in a transfer battle between themselves and Fulham but ultimately opted for the seaside club. He previously played for Shamrock Rovers where he made his league debut at just 16.

Furlong started every game for the Ireland u17 European Championship squad in 2019 that remained unbeaten on home soil. This included an impressive draw against a Belgium side containing newly signed Rennes man, Jeremy Doku.

Furlong has a wand of a left foot and his set piece delivery is second to none. He has recently been promoted to the Brighton u23s after impressing for the u18s. He had made u23 appearances previously, but he has firmly established himself as a member of the squad this season. So far this season, he has made 2 appearances for the u23s in the EFL Premier League 2 and a further 2 for the u21s in the EFL Trophy.

Brighton are one of the better clubs in the Premier League at developing young players. Some of their young players being given regular minutes in the Premier League include Aaron Connolly, Steven Alzate and Tariq Lamptey. Hopefully Furlong can emulate the aforementioned players in the coming years.

Honourable Mention(s): Matt Everitt (18), Leigh Kavanagh (16), Andy Moran (17).

 

BURNLEY

N/A

Burnley are the first club on the list who don’t have an Irish teenager in their academy/first team. They do, however, have quite a few Irish players in their senior squad.

Jimmy Dunne is unarguably the most promising Irish player at the club. The Dundalk native recently made his Premier League debut for Burnley. Despite his team losing 4-2 at the hands of Leicester. The centre back impressed as he scored a goal and looked comfortable at centre back.

He made 1 further Premier League appearance after that and although he was solid once again, he has only appeared on the bench since. Hopefully he can break into the starting XI in the next few months. If not, a loan move to a Championship club would be good for his development.

 

CHELSEA

GEORGE NUNN – 18 – STRIKER/WINGER

George Nunn is the sole Irish player in the Chelsea academy system, or Chelsea in general for that matter.

Nunn was spotted by Chelsea scouts whilst playing for Crewe Alexandra’s u18 squad. He was signed for a reported figure of £306,000 at the age of just 16. He’s described by Chelsea as versatile forward who can play anywhere across the front three.

After appearing for the u18s the past couple of seasons, he has been promoted to the u23s for the 2020/21 season. So far, he has made 5 appearances in the PL2 for Chelsea u23s. He has also appeared twice in the EFL Trophy for the u21s.

He signed a new contract with the Blues at the start of the year which will keep him at the club until June 2022.

In terms of his Ireland involvement, George Nunn received his first Ireland u19 call up in 2019 having previously appeared in friendlies for the u18s. He hasn’t been involved in any squads since, but we would expect that to change before long.

 

CRYSTAL PALACE

OMOTAYO ADARAMOLA – 16 – FULL BACK

Tayo Adaramola is a promising left back coming through the Crystal Palace academy which has produced several Premier League players over the years.

He has recently signed a new deal at Palace as a first-year scholar and appears to have established himself a valuable member of the u18 squad. So far this season, he has made 3 appearances in the u18 Premier League.

Tayo moved to London a few years ago and joined up with Crystal Palace. In Ireland, he was on the books of St. Kevin’s Boys in Dublin, as many talented Irish footballers once were.

He made his Ireland u17 debut at the age of 15 and has gone on to make a further 2 appearances for his nation at that level.

Honourable Mention(s): Fionn Mooney* (16).

 

EVERTON

THOMAS CANNON – 17 – STRIKER/WINGER

Tom Cannon is a player which has somewhat gone under the radar compared to some of the other underage talent Ireland are currently producing. The 17-year-old striker – who can also play as a winger – has an incredible scoring record at underage level.

So far this season, Cannon has scored 2 goals and managed an assist in 5 games. Last season he really made his mark, though. The young striker earned comparisons with Jamie Vardy after an unbelievable scoring campaign. He managed to score 16 goals and gather 5 assists in just 15 games in the u18 Premier League.

Cannon is also eligible for England and if he keeps up his goalscoring exploits, there’s no doubt they’ll come sniffing before too long. At the moment though he remains firmly committed to the Republic. In his most impressive Ireland appearance to date, he managed a hat trick of assists and scored against Gibraltar in a 13-0 win.

Although it’s early in his career yet, Cannon *could* be the long-term solution to Ireland’s striker problem over the years along with Troy Parrott, Michael Obafemi etc.

 

FULHAM

OLLIE O’NEILL – 17 – WINGER/ATTACKING MIDFIELD

Recently promoted Fulham have been struggling in the Premier League so far this season. They’re currently sitting in 20th place after picking up just 1 point. The same cannot be said about their u18 side, they currently sit 2nd in the u18 Premier League South after winning the same league last season.

Ollie O’Neill is an integral member of that squad. In fact, he impressed so much last season that he signed his first professional deal in February.

Described as a player who can play all across the midfield, O’Neill is more often than not utilised as a winger. His fantastic crossing ability compliments his ability on the wing. He’s also capable of scoring a goal or two as he demonstrated last season with 3 goals in 13 appearances.

He has appeared at u17 level for Ireland, most recently playing against Israel on the 18th November 2019 where he scored in a 4-2 win which guaranteed Ireland a place in the Elite Round of UEFA Under-17 European Championship.

He made his official Fulham u21 debut in October against Peterborough in the EFL Trophy, having previously appeared in pre-season friendlies for the u23s. It may not be too long before he makes his first team debut if he keeps going at the rate he currently is.

 

LEEDS UNITED

OWEN BRAY – 17 – DEFENSIVE/CENTRE MIDFIELD

Owen Bray is a young midfielder is capable of playing in a central or defensive role.

So far this season, he has made 2 appearances. He has played against Accrington Stanley in the EFL Trophy for Leeds u21s and also made an appearance in the u18 Premier League.

Last season, he made 2 appearances in the FA Youth Cup as well as making further appearances in the league for Leeds u18s.

He hasn’t made any Ireland appearances to date, but that could change in the future.

 

LEICESTER CITY

SHANE FLYNN – 19 – WINGER/FULL BACK

Former Bray Wanderers man Shane Flynn joined Leicester City in 2017 from the aforementioned Irish club. He would join Bray again for the 2018 season where he made 1 appearance off the bench against Cork before re-joining Leicester in June of the same year. Initially joining up with the u18 squad, Flynn has since become a member of the Leicester u23 team, linking with fellow Irishmen Darragh O’Connor and Ali Reghba.

Flynn is predominantly a winger, but has a been used as an attacking full back at times as well. He has a good left foot which allows him to whip in delivers from wide areas.

Last season he made 14 appearances in the u18 Premier League where he made an impressive return of 4 goals and 5 assists. So far this season, he has made 6 appearances in total and managed 2 assists.

Clearly a player with a lot of potential, he has been somewhat overlooked compared to other Irish players. That may change if he puts up similar number with the u23s as he did with the u18s last season. Flynn was included in The Guardians’ Next Generation 2018 which profiled the best young talents at Premier League clubs.

In terms of his Ireland involvement, Flynn has played some u16 friendlies in 2016 but hasn’t played any international games since. Although, he was involved in an u19 training camp in September 2019.

Flynn’s progress will be interesting to monitor this season as he steps up a level to the u23s.

 

LIVERPOOL

N/A

The second club on the list with no Irish teenager on their books. In fact, there’s only one Irish player contracted to Liverpool and that’s Caoimhin Kelleher.

Many Irish football fans would be familiar with Kelleher. The Cork man has featured in several Irish senior squads – without making an appearance – and has been involved in Liverpool first team squads’ numerous times.

The 21-year-old is a modern goalkeeper and often plays the role of sweeper keeper. He’s very comfortable with the ball at his feet and has shown so in the past with his confidence and composure despite being under pressure from opposition players. It’s no surprise that Kelleher is as comfortable as he is with the ball at his feet. After all, he was a prolific striker for Ringmahon Rangers, initially. He played up front for his local club Ringmahon Ranger in Cork before being converted to a goalkeeper. A decision which has so far paid off.

He has represented Ireland at numerous age levels over the years, going from the u17 squads in 2014 to being named in the senior squad for the first time in 2018. He’s yet to make a senior appearance for his country but that may change in the future with Ireland number one, Darren Randolph, aging and sitting on the bench every weekend.

A loan move would be ideal for Kelleher at this stage in his development. He’s unlikely to get much first team action with Alisson returning after being injured and Adrian ahead of him in the pecking order. Brazilian goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga has also recently signed for Liverpool, providing yet more competition for the Irishman.

There was talk of a number of clubs being interested in loaning Kelleher in recent times – Preston being one such club. Nothing materialized however, and Kelleher remains at Liverpool for the time being.

 

MANCHESTER CITY

JOE HODGE – 18 – DEFENSIVE/CENTRE MIDFIELD

There are numerous high potential Irish/Irish-eligible players currently on the books of Manchester City. Joe Hodge is arguably the best of the lot.

Hodge is a diminutive midfielder capable of controlling games with his exceptional passing ability and press resistance. Despite his stature, Hodge doesn’t shirk a tackle. He’s very capable of holding his own in a one on one. He has also demonstrated his shooting range on a number of occasions.

Although he has no senior experience under his belt so far, that could change very soon with the midfielder impressing for both City and Irish underage teams. Just yesterday he scored a belter from outside the box in the FA Youth Cup semi-final for Man City. A match which City would ultimately win, thus taking them to the final.

Manchester City rate Hodge very highly. He recently won Manchester City’s Scholar of the Year for the 2019/20 season which is no mean feat. He also regularly features for their underage teams.

Hodge has represented Republic of Ireland at numerous youth levels including u16, u17 and u19 levels. He was also included in a recent u21 training camp, but wasn’t selected for any squads leading up to games. Hodge has also represented England at underage level, but hasn’t featured in any of their squads since 2018 and remains committed to Ireland for the time being, at least. According to current Dundalk coach Shane Keegan, Hodge would be a bigger loss than Grealish or Rice if he were to declare for England.

Gavin Bazunu also deserves a special mention. The former Shamrock Rovers man has gone from strength to strength since transferring to Manchester City in 2019 for just £450,000. Bazunu is currently on loan at Rochdale for the season where he has been impressing by making some incredible reflex saves. The Irish goalkeeper position should be in safe hands in the next couple of years with the likes of Bazunu, Kelleher and Travers coming through.

Honourable Mention(s): Gavin Bazunu (18), Timi Sobowale (18), CJ Egan-Riley* (17), Liam Delap* (17).

 

MANCHESTER UNITED

CHARLIE MCCANN – 18 – DEFENSIVE/CENTRE MIDFIELD

McCann is yet another talented, young defensive midfielder in Manchester, albeit on the other side.

Charlie McCann often plays in a more advanced role than Hodge which suits his goalscoring ability. He scored 6 goals in 15 games from midfield last season and his performances have earned him a promotion to the u23 squad in the PL2 for this season. He has already scored 2 goals this season from 4 appearances in the EFL cup and PL2.

McCann has also represented England at underage level but hasn’t done so since 2017 when he was playing for Coventry City. He has since gone on to represent Ireland u17 and u18. A call up to the up to the u21s might not be far off if he keeps up the form he has shown so far this season, also.

Highly touted Irishman Ayodeji Sotona was also on the books of Manchester United up until the summer, but turned down a new contract in search of football elsewhere. He ended up signing for Nice but has yet to feature in any squads as of yet. Another Irish underage international had a similar situation the season prior. Free-scoring Ademipo Odubeko turned down a Manchester United contract and went onto sign for West Ham United where he has kept up his goalscoring exploits.

Honourable Mention(s): Harvey Neville (18).

 

NEWCASTLE UNITED

STANLEY FLAHERTY – 18 – CENTRE/ATTACKING MIDFIELD

Flaherty is a goalscoring midfielder currently on the books of Newcastle United. Despite just being 18, Flaherty has had his fair share of clubs.

Previously in the Arsenal youth setup, Flaherty was unusually released in 2019 – despite being highly touted by many. A trial at West Ham United followed where he impressed but it would be the Magpies who landed the teenagers’ signature in the end. It’s not the first time Arsenal have let go of talented young players, Bayern Munich’s Serge Gnabry being the most notable recent example.

So far, it appears to have been a good piece of business for Newcastle. He has played 5 matches in the Premier League 2 this season with a return of 3 goals and an assist. There are plenty of rumours going around that if Flaherty continues his impressive form for Newcastle, there’s a chance he could be fast tracked into the first team.

Flaherty has not appeared for any Ireland squads so far, but he is eligible through his grandparents. He’s also eligible for England through birth and parentage so a battle between the two nations for the young player could ensue in the coming months or years.

Honourable Mention(s): Oisin McEntee (19).

 

SHEFFIELD UNITED

LEONARDO GAXHA* – 18 – STRIKER/WINGER

One of the few Kerry footballers playing over in England, Gaxha is a goal poaching striker who’s also capable of playing on the right wing.

Sheffield United are the only Premier League club not to play in the Premier League 2. Instead, their u23s play in the professional development league. Gaxha is a member of the u23s, but has struggled for game time this season due to an injury. He has made just 1 appearance since the start of the season. The highly rated teenager recently signed his first professional contract, recently.

Gaxha is a multiple time Ireland underage international. Despite being born, growing up and playing Internationally for his country, Gaxha has encountered abuse in the past due to his Albanian background. “He told me to go back to my own country and I’m there thinking to myself, ‘What’s my country? I was born here, raised here. I’ve represented this country five times’. I’m Irish as far as I’m concerned. It’s 2020, times have got to change.” Gaxha explained to Radio Kerry’s Terrace Talk when describing a discriminatory encounter.

Gaxha has represented Albania u18s more recently than Ireland, but has played for Ireland at multiple age levels and would be unlikely to turn down a call up. A tug-of-war between the two countries could follow if Gaxha shows good progress over the coming years.

Honourable Mention(s): Harvey Cullinan (17).

 

SOUTHAMPTON

WILL FERRY – 19 – WINGER

Southampton have a number of young Irish players within their first team and B (u23) team. Michael Obafemi and Will Smallbone are the most recognisable, having played in the Southampton first team on multiple occasions. Will Ferry is – arguably – the best teenager at the club, however.

The 19-year-old winger has exceptional pace and close control which helps him to evade opposition players with relative ease.

He was involved in Southampton first team squads 4 times last season, but ultimately failed to make an appearance off the bench. He regularly plays for their B team where he has made 5 appearances in the PL2 so far this season.

In terms of his Ireland involvement, Ferry has represented Ireland at multiple age levels. He has played at u18, u19 – where he scored 2 goals in 5 appearances – and was recently selected for a u21 training camp, but is yet to be involved in a matchday squad.

Southampton clearly have high hopes for the teenager, and it might not be too long before he makes his senior debut at the club. He’s undeniably one to watch for the future.

Honourable Mention(s): Kameron Ledwidge (19), Seamas Keogh (18).

 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

TROY PARROTT – 18 – STRIKER

Despite being only 18 and starting very few senior games, Troy Parrott has received attention that most senior players could only dream of. His recognition is undoubtably testament to his ability. The young striker has scored numerous goals at youth level for club and country. He even chipped in with a couple of goals for Millwall – who he’s currently on loan with – in pre-season.

He is yet to feature for Millwall this season in a competitive fixture but that’s no fault of his own. Parrott sustained an injury early into the season which will keep him out of action until later this month.

Parrott didn’t make many first team appearances at any level last season as he dwelled in the fringes of the first team after being deemed too good for youth level. He also missed the restart of the Premier League campaign during the Summer as he underwent a procedure to remove his appendix. When he did feature, he scored goals, though. In an incredible UEFA Youth League campaign, he scored 6 goals and got an assist in just 1 appearance. 4 of those goals came in 1 game against Red Star Belgrade. He also scored 3 goals in 2 Premier League 2 appearances.

Parrott hasn’t just showed form for Spurs’ underage sides, he has also been a talisman for his country at several age levels. He has represented Ireland from u15 to senior level, but really made his mark at u21 level. Parrott scored 4 goals in 4 appearances for Stephen Kenny’s – former – side as he helped them to some impressive results. He has been involved in a handful of senior squads which included starting against New Zealand where he impressed as he provided an assist for Sean Maguire.

This season will be pivotal in Troy Parrott’s development. After being starved of first team opportunities at Spurs, he now has his chance to impress at a high level for Millwall – upon return from injury.

Honourable Mention(s): Jamie Bowden (19), Aaron Maguire (16), Dennis Cirkin* (18).

 

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

ZAK DELANEY – 18 – FULL/CENTRE BACK

Zak Delaney is a versatile left back who currently features for West Brom’s u23 side in the Premier League 2, after being promoted from the u18s. Delaney joined up with West Brom in 2018 after impressing on trial. West Brom faced competition from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunderland but ultimately signed for the Birmingham based side. He was on the books of St. Patrick’s Athletic beforehand.

Delaney is yet to make a senior appearance for West Brom but regularly plays for their underage sides, including a starting role for the u23s this season. Hopefully he can emulate the success of a fellow Irish defender at West Brom – Dara O’Shea – by making his senior debut in the future.

Delaney has been involved in Ireland u16 and u17 squads, but has not played at a higher age level than that. If he continues to start and perform for West Brom u23s there’s a possibility he could be selected for future u19 squads, though.

Honourable Mention(s): Vinnie Dwyer (18).

 

WEST HAM UNITED

ADEMIPO ODUBEKO – 18 – STRIKER

As mentioned previously, Ademipo Odubeko – affectionately known as Mipo – previously played for Manchester United’s underage sides before switching North for South as he signed for West Ham in 2019.

Odubeko has all the desirable attributes of a top striker. He has pace, great off the ball movement and an eye for goal.

Odubeko scored an incredible 35 goals for Manchester United’s youth side in the 2018/19 season but he opted to take his goalscoring exploits elsewhere for the 2019/20 season as he turned down a Manchester United contract. There was fierce competition to sign the teenager striker as a host of clubs lined up for his signature. Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich were reportedly interested before the Hammers got their man.

He continued to score at will for West Ham’s underage sides as he scored 10 goals in just 8 appearances for West Ham u18s and u23s. He has been injured for much of this season so far, but he managed to score twice against Southend United for West Ham u21s in the EFL Trophy before his injury.

Odubeko is yet to make a first team appearance for West Ham but it’s looking increasingly likely that he may be involved at some stage this season. He was on the bench for a pre-season friendly against Ipswich but failed to get a run out.

Odubeko has only represented Ireland up to u17 with his last appearance coming in May 2019. This is strange considering his incredible goalscoring form at club, hopefully he’s included in Ireland squads in the future as he appears to be a real talent.

Honourable Mention(s): Daniel Jinadu* (18).

 

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

LEWIS RICHARDS – 19 – FULL/CENTRE BACK

Promising left back Lewis Richards has been at the Wolves academy since he was 15. He initially played for Brentford, but was forced to transfer after Brentford closed down their academy.

Since joining Wolves, he has shown unbelievable progress. Richards won Wolves’ Academy Player of the Season in the 2018/19 season as he appeared in numerous games for their underage squads. He continued his impressive performances into the 2019/20 campaign as he regularly started in the PL2. Because of his consistency, he was awarded a new 2-year contract with an option of an extra year.

He trained with the Wolves first team last season on numerous occasions. He was also named on the bench in 2 Europa League ties, but failed to make an appearance off the bench.

Richards was first involved in an Ireland team at the end of 2019. He was named in the u19s for games against Switzerland, Gibraltar and Austria. Thomas Cannon, Conor Noß, Harvey Neville and Jamie Bowden were also called up for the first time.

We would expect Lewis Richards to make his first team debut this season. His inclusion in previous squads would suggest he’s not far off the first team. Alternatively, he could spend another season in the PL2 honing his craft. Either way, Richards is an exciting prospect for both Wolves and Ireland.

Honourable Mention(s): Lee Harkin (17), Conor Carty (18).

 

That concludes our list of the most exciting Irish teenagers currently at Premier League clubs – in our opinion. The likelihood of every player making it at their respective club is slim. Saying that, if only a fraction of the players mentioned above succeed at the top level, it could spell exciting times for the Irish national team.

Whatever happens, it’s refreshing to have some sort of enthusiasm regarding the future of the Irish squad. Particularly given the lack of quality Irish players that have come through in recent years. Time will tell.

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