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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 21 October, 2018

5 young Irish footballers who provide hope for the future

Conor Masterson and others who will some day hope to line out for the Boys in Green.

LET’S FACE IT, it’s been a pretty bad week to be an Irish football fan.

It now appears highly unlikely that the Boys in Green will qualify for the 2018 World Cup following a damaging 1-0 defeat to Serbia on Tuesday.

Moreover, the current senior squad is not exactly youthful. Just two of its most recent members, Callum O’Dowda and Cyrus Christie, are under the age of 25.

The lack of players coming through have led some to question the underage structures and why the current system is seemingly failing to produce top-quality players.

However, there are still a few teenage Irish footballers of whom big things are expected in future. We’ve highlighted five of the most promising individuals below…

1. Declan Rice

Declan Rice Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Declan Rice is that rare thing — an Irish underage international who seemingly has a chance at playing regular Premier League football this season. Despite only being 18, Rice has already played four tines for the Hammers this season, though he was substituted at half-time after making a costly error in their last Premier League match against Newcastle.

The London-born teenager has been likened to Tottenham’s Eric Dier, partially due to his ability to play both as a centre back and defensive midfielder with similar levels of assurance. West Ham’s failure to land Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho on deadline day could ensure further game time for Rice, who completed 90 minutes in the Irish U21 side’s recent 3-1 victory over Azerbaijan.

2.  Jayson Molumby

Brighton and Hove Albion v Barnet - Carabao Cup - Second Round - AMEX Stadium Source: Gareth Fuller

Molumby recently made his full senior debut for Brighton, completing 90 minutes in their 1-0 League Cup victory over Barnet.

The 18-year-old Waterford native has been at Chris Hughton’s side since signing with the Seagulls in 2015, with Brighton reportedly beating a number of other Premier League and Championship clubs to his signature.

The promising midfielder has also impressed for Ireland at underage level, and will be hoping to get more first-team opportunities with the Premier League side in the near future.

3. Conor Masterson

Manchester City v Liverpool - FA Youth Cup - Fourth Round - Academy Arena Source: EMPICS Sport

Another hot prospect, it was confirmed during the week that Masterson had been included in Liverpool’s Champions League squad. And although he is unlikely to see game time in Europe, the 19-year-old Dublin-born centre-back, who has captained Ireland at underage level, is clearly highly thought of at Anfield.

Masterson was named on the bench for Liverpool’s FA Cup tie at Exeter aged just 17, while he was one of a select few youngsters included in a mid-season training camp with the senior team last February.

4. Aaron Connolly

Brighton and Hove Albion v Barnet - Carabao Cup - Second Round - AMEX Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Like Molumby, Galway native Aaron Connolly featured in Brighton’s League Cup win over Barnet, coming off the bench on 76 minutes. With not many top-quality strikers available for Ireland currently, the 17-year-old could potentially be the answer to the Boys in Green’s problems in attack in years to come.

A product of Mervue United, Connolly has been a prolific scorer at underage level, and earlier this year, he was a key part of the Irish team that competed in the Uefa European U17 Championship.

5. Trevor Clarke

Trevor Clarke Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The 19-year-old midfielder has delivered some highly impressive performances for Shamrock Rovers of late, scoring the odd screamer in the process.

An Ireland U19 international, he was part of Middlesbrough’s academy before linking up with Rovers.

Clarke may ultimately be set for bigger and better things than the League of Ireland though, with the player linked with a move to Southampton amid talk of a potential six-figure sum in recent times.

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Paul Fennessy

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