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We compiled an XI containing the best Irish footballers this season.
Given the day that’s in it, we’ve decided to compile a list of the best Irish performers across the footballing world this season.
Season is, of course, a broad term so we’re limiting inclusions on the list to those of which who began their campaigns in Autumn last year. That means the likes of Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff will miss out despite their impressive form.
Although the season is far from over yet, there’s been a significant enough portion played to determine players deserving of inclusion.
With that said, here’s an XI of the best Irish footballers this season.
Gavin Bazunu – Rochdale (on loan from Manchester City)
The first inclusion on the list made for a fairly easy decision, all things considered. Caoimhin Kelleher is another who has had a fine season, however limited game time made it hard to pick the Corkman.
Despite being just 19 years of age, Gavin Bazunu has been well known to Irish football fans for a couple of years now. His penalty save against Cork City’s Kieran Sadlier as a 16-year-old firmly established himself as one of the brightest prospects in the country.
Almost 3 years on from that moment and he’s flourishing in his first full season of professional football.
Bazunu has started almost every game for Rochdale, making some magnificent saves in the process.
Just recently, he was awarded Rochdale Supporters’ Player of the Month for February as a token of appreciation for his fine form over the past month or so.
Given he’s one of the only Irish goalkeepers starting regularly at the moment, could Bazunu have an outside chance of starting against Serbia?
Honourable mentions: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Jack Bonham (Gillingham).
It’s that time of the weekend… ⌚️
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) MARCH 14, 2021
Séamus Coleman – Everton
Although he’s been in and out of the Everton team at times this season, Coleman has shown he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
Carlo Ancelotti is clearly an admirer, speaking about the Donegal man, he said: “I don’t want to forget anyone but he is up there as a captain with Maldini, John Terry and Sergio Ramos.”
High praise from one of the most decorated managers in Europe.
Barring yet another unfortunate injury, Coleman should be a shoo-in for the right back spot against Serbia.
Honourable mentions: Cyrus Christie (Nottingham Forest), Danny McNamara (Millwall).
Enda Stevens – Sheffield United
Realistically, there wasn’t many options to choose from in the left back position.
Ryan Manning’s severe lack of game time – particularly earlier in the season – excluded him from the XI and there really isn’t an in form Irish left backs regularly starting at any level.
So, by default, Enda Stevens takes the left back spot.
Stevens had an excellent 2019-20 season but has failed to replicate that form this term. Although he’s not solely to blame, he is a regular starter in the 2nd worst defence in the Premier League.
His attacking output has also been lacking this season, to say the least.
Clearly a player of good quality based on previous seasons, hopefully he can come into form again sooner rather than later.
Honourable mentions: Joe Rafferty (Preston North End), Thomas O’Connor (Gillingham, on loan from Southampton).
Richard Keogh – Huddersfield Town
Just a couple of years ago, it looked like Richard Keogh’s career might be over. A drink driving incident involving himself and two other Derby County team mates left the former captain injured and shameful. Eventually, this led to the termination of his contract.
However, in a surprise move last summer, Keogh decided to return to football after almost a year out of the game. He signed for League One side MK Dons on a free and since then he’s very much revitalised his career.
His impressive performances for The Dons caught the attention of Championship side Huddersfield Town who signed Keogh in January.
His commanding performances have continued at Championship level and he looks to be a shrewd signing for Huddersfield, despite his age.
Could we see a shock return to the Ireland fold, also?
Dara O’Shea – West Bromwich Albion
Although it’s not been a particularly good season for West Brom, it’s been an exceptional one for 22-year-old Dara O’Shea.
Just two years ago, he was plying his trade at League Two level while on loan at Exeter City.
Since then, he’s managed to gain promotion to the Premier League with West Brom, earn 4 senior international caps and become a Premier League regular this season.
O’Shea has impressed at times this season despite his side having the worst defensive record in the Premier League. His ability to play out from the back as well as his defensive awareness have helped contribute to a solid debut Premier League campaign.
Honourable mentions: Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), Nathan Collins (Stoke City).
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh
Happy St Patrick’s Day Everyone
— Dara O’Shea (@dara_oshea_) MARCH 17, 2021
Josh Cullen – RSC Anderlecht
After years of trying to break into the West Ham first team which seen him go on several loan spells and play sporadically in cup competitions for his parent club, Cullen finally made the move away from London last October. Cullen, in an unusual transfer for an Irish player, decided to move abroad to Belgium in order to ply his trade for the country’s most successful club, RSC Anderlecht.
So far, the move has been a major success story for the 24-year-old, gaining valuable first-team minutes and becoming a key player for the club.
You would think given his regular game time and solid performances that Stephen Kenny would find it hard to overlook Cullen as a starter for the upcoming World Cup qualification games.
Jason Knight – Derby County
It hasn’t been the best season for Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Although their form has slightly improved since the Manchester United legend took over, they still hang dangerously close to the relegation zone.
Throughout their rough patch, Jason Knight has proved to be one of their best performers. The Irish midfielder’s desire, work rate and all-roundedness has endeared himself to the supporters and he’s become a real fan favourite.
He has played the most minutes of any Derby player despite just recently turning 20.
Tipped by many to have a big future, Knight could become one of Ireland’s most important players sooner rather than later.
Conor Hourihane – Swansea City (on loan from Aston Villa)
After a difficult start to the season which seen limited game time at Aston Villa, Hourihane decided to drop down a level and sign on loan for Swansea City in January.
So far, the move could hardly have gone any better.
The Corkman has played 12 Championship games since his move, contributing an impressive 5 goals and 1 assist in those games.
Swansea currently sit 3rd in the Championship table and are just three points behind Watford who occupy an automatic promotion spot.
Could Hourihane inspire Swansea City to their first Premier League season since 2018?
Honourable mentions: Jamie McGrath (St Mirren), Wes Hoolahan (Cambridge United).
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) MARCH 13, 2021
Anthony Scully – Lincoln City
The former West Ham striker turned winger has been one of Lincoln’s most important players in a promotion chasing season which currently sees them occupy 3rd position.
Scully has played 28 League One games this season, scoring a rather impressive 6 goals from out wide.
His father, Tony Scully, was also a professional footballer and managed to get capped up to u21 level for the Republic of Ireland, a feat which Anthony has also managed to achieve.
Promotion this season with Lincoln would surely put him in contention for a senior cap in the near future.
Honourable mentions: Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers), Robbie Brady (Burnley).
Aiden McGeady – Sunderland
Perhaps Ireland’s most in-form player at the moment, Aiden McGeady has enjoyed an incredible season with Sunderland.
McGeady’s creativity has been one of the main reasons that Sunderland find themselves within the automatic promotion spots in League One.
He’s contributed an incredible 11 assists and 2 goals in just 18 league games for the Tyneside club. One particular game against Doncaster Rovers seen him assist all of his side’s goals in a 4-1 win.
He also provided the only assist of the game as Sunderland won the Football League Trophy against Tranmere Rovers on Sunday.
Honourable mentions: Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), James McClean (Stoke City).
Joshua Kayode – Carlisle United (on loan from Rotherham United)
In a season where Irish strikers have largely failed to impress, Joshua – or JJ – Kayode has been an exception.
The former St. Francis FC man has managed 8 goal contributions in 27 League Two games this season for Carlisle, adding to the 3 goals he got for the club in 5 appearances last season.
His 6 goals this season means he’s one of the highest scoring u21 players in England’s top 4 tiers, just behind João Pedro and Keane Lewis-Potter.
He also made his full debut for Ireland u21s in November against Luxembourg where he managed to score an accurate header into the corner to add to an all-around impressive performance.
Kayode’s form this season could persuade Rotherham to give the 20-year-old a chance in their first-team next season, particularly with the club clinging to the bottom of the Championship table.
Honourable mentions: James Collins (Luton Town), Eoin Doyle (Bolton Wanderers).
Not bad😂 https://t.co/fjefqSTwEQ
— Joshua Kayode (@joshuakayode_9) MARCH 15, 2021