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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 22 February, 2018
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7 Irish players who could help inspire FA Cup upsets this weekend

Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan and others who could be involved in unexpected victories.

1. Wes Hoolahan (Norwich)

Norwich City v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship - Carrow Road Source: EMPICS Sport

AT 35, HOOLAHAN has inevitably been used somewhat sparingly by Norwich this season. The Dubliner has been involved in 17 of the Canaries’ 26 Championship matches, and just 11 of those games were starts. The Ireland international has also played in four EFL Cup matches, and could be given a run out again for his side’s FA Cup fixture at home to Chelsea on Saturday evening.

2. Cian Bolger (Fleetwood Town)

Charlton Athletic v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One - The Valley Source: EMPICS Sport

The 25-year-old six-foot-four-inch centre-back faces the side he started out with in England, Leicester City, in Saturday’s early kick-off. Hailing from Celbridge, he has also had spells at Bolton Wanderers and Southend United before signing with Fleetwood in 2016. This season, he has been a regular in his side’s defence, and so is expected to be involved against Claude Puel’s men. One Irishman who won’t be featuring in the game, however, is Paddy Madden. The striker has just joined the club from League One rivals Scunthorpe United, but is cup-tied, having already lined out for the Iron in the competition earlier this season.

3. Glen Rea (Luton Town)

Accrington Stanley v Luton Town - Sky Bet League Two - Wham Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

The former Ireland U21 international has featured 29 times in all competitions for Luton. The 23-year-old is one of four players who have represented Ireland at underage level in the League Two side’s squad (James Collins, Alan Sheehan and Alan McCormack are the other three), and he will be aiming to help the Hatters topple Premier League outfit Newcastle this weekend.

4. Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest)

Derby County v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship - Pride Park Source: Mike Egerton

The 34-year-old Ireland international had an encouraging start to his Nottingham Forest career, scoring six goals in his first 12 games, though the goals have dried up since then, with Murphy registering only one goal in his last 11 Championship outings. The Waterford native missed the clash with Leeds on New Year’s Day through injury, but is expected to be available again as his side host FA Cup holders Arsenal on Sunday.

5. Michael Doyle (Coventry City)

Coventry City v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League Two - Ricoh Arena Source: Barrington Coombs

Doyle, who won a single cap for Ireland all the way back in 2004 against the Netherlands, is still going strong at 36. The Dublin-born midfielder started out at Celtic, but never managed to play for a sustained period at the highest level. Nonetheless, he has carved out a creditable career in England’s lower leagues, returning for a second stint at League Two outfit Coventry ahead of this season. He has plenty of experience playing in big cup games previously, and will be hoping to captain his side to victory against struggling Premier League side Stoke.

6. Kevin Long (Burnley)

Burnley v West Ham United - Premier League - Turf Moor Source: Dave Howarth

Given the amount of players that tend to be rested, even unexpected results in the FA Cup featuring two Premier League sides sometimes don’t really feel like upsets. However, it would most definitely be a surprise if Burnley end Man City’s unbeaten run this weekend. The excellent form of first-choice centre-back pairing James Tarkowski and Ben Mee has meant that Cork native Long has struggled to make the starting XI at times. The Ireland defender has impressed when given the chance, though, and may well get another game this weekend.

7. Mark O’Brien (Newport Town)

Soccer - Scottish Premier League - Motherwell Photocall - Fir Park Source: JSHPIX.CO

As he recalled in a subsequent interview with The42, O’Brien became an overnight hero in south-east Wales at the end of last season, when he scored the goal that prevented Newport County from being relegated out of the Football League, having only joined the club on loan. After signing for the club permanently, the Dubliner has been a regular in their defence, and is expected to line out against Championship outfit Leeds this weekend, having just served a three-game suspension for a red card he picked up against Lincoln.

FA Cup third-round matches (all games kick-off at 3pm unless stated otherwise)

Friday

Liverpool v Everton (19.55)
Man United v Derby (20.00)

Saturday

Fleetwood Town v Leicester (12.45)
Middlesbrough v Sunderland (13.00)
Aston Villa v Peterborough United
Birmingham City v Burton Albion
Blackburn Rovers v Hull City
Bolton Wanderers v Huddersfield Town
AFC Bournemouth v Wigan Athletic
Brentford v Notts County
Cardiff City v Mansfield Town
Carlisle United v Sheffield Wednesday
Coventry City v Stoke City
Doncaster Rovers v Rochdale
Exeter City v West Bromwich Albion
Fulham v Southampton
Ipswich Town v Sheffield United
Manchester City v Burnley
Millwall v Barnsley
Newcastle United v Luton Town
Queen’s Park Rangers v Milton Keynes Dons
Stevenage v Reading
Watford v Bristol City
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Swansea City
Wycombe Wanderers v Preston North End
Yeovil Town v Bradford City
Norwich City v Chelsea (17.30)

Sunday

Newport County v Leeds United (12.00)
Shrewsbury Town v West Ham United (14.00)
Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Wimbledon
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal (16.00)

Monday

Brighton and Hove Albion v Crystal Palace (19.45)

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