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Power ranking the 10 most promising young Irish footballers

Following Jack Byrne’s move today, we look at others who could flourish in years to come.

WITH NEWS OF Jack Byrne’s contract signing and loan move to Holland, we’ve decided to take a closer look at the young Irish talent coming through the ranks.

The criteria for this list excludes players who are already senior internationals, thus explaining the absence of the likes of Robbie Brady and Shane Duffy.

Also not eligible are players under the age of 16 (sorry Ryan Patrick Nolan and Zak Gilsenan), who are simply too young to properly judge.

Players aged 23 and over are similarly ruled out, as it’s around the time footballers should be fulfilling their potential, rather than being continually talked of as ‘promising’.

Consequently, here’s who was eligible and did make our list…

10. Alex O’Hanlon

Soccer - UEFA Youth League - Group B - Liverpool v Real Madrid - Langtree Park Source: EMPICS Sport

The 19-year-old from Blanchardstown has been making waves for quite some time. Prior to signing with the Reds, the former Home Farm player was linked with a number of clubs, including Real Madrid. A versatile footballer who can operate either as a full-back or in midfield, O’Hanlon is arguably better placed than other Irish youngsters given Liverpool’s recent track record of bringing youth team players such as Raheem Sterling and Jordan Ibe through the ranks.

9. Eoghan O’Connell

Soccer - U19 UEFA Youth League - Celtic U19 v AC Milan U19 - Almondvale Stadium Source: Mike Egerton

The cousin of Irish rugby star Paul O’Connell, the defender has already made waves at Celtic. Still just a teenager, O’Connell has already had his first-team debut with the Scottish side and has been named club’s Academy Player of the Year, in addition to signing a new contract earlier this year.

8. Samir Carruthers

Soccer - Sky Bet League One - Milton Keynes Dons v Tranmere Rovers - Stadium:mk Source: Stephen Pond

Having been let go by Aston Villa last summer, the Islington-born creative midfielder showed good character to recover from this disappointment and play an important role in MK Dons’ promotion from League One. Manager Karl Robinson believes he will be a Premier League player one day.

7. Dylan Connolly

Dylan Connolly celebrates scoring Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The teenage winger only joined Ipswich from Shelbourne last January. Nevertheless, the 19-year-old has clearly made an impact with the Tractor Boys, already making the bench a couple of times. Of Connolly, manager Mick McCarthy recently said: “I hope the lads that we’ve got that we didn’t see last year, Dylan Connolly, who was excellent in the U21s, I’m hoping he’ll flourish.”

6. Sean Kavanagh

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Fulham Open Training Session - Craven Cottage Source: EMPICS Sport

The 21-year-old Dubliner made a number of appearances for Fulham in the Championship last season. Capable of playing left-back and left midfield, Kavanagh’s good form was rewarded with a new contract back in January.

5. Tommie Hoban

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Sheffield Wednesday v Watford - Hillsborough Source: Anna Gowthorpe

The Ireland U21 defender will expect game time in the Premier League with Watford next season. The London-born player had an important role at the back during the club’s promotion campaign last season, and Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has watched Hoban in action on more than one occasion, indicating a senior international call-up may be on the horizon.

4. Ian Lawlor

Soccer - U21 Barclays Premier League - Manchester City v Everton - Etihad Stadium Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

The 20-year-old Dubliner has impressed at Man City, the club he joined back as far back as 2010. At six foot four, the player certainly has the physical stature to be a top goalkeeper. However, with Joe Hart not looking like giving up the number one jersey anytime soon, he may need to follow Irish colleague Jack Byrne’s example and go out on loan. He was also briefly called up to the Ireland squad last year, indicating how highly he is thought of by the Boys in Green’s management set-up.

3. Reece Grego-Cox

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City v Queens Park Rangers - Etihad Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

With up-and-coming strikers currently seeming few and far between, Grego-Cox could turn out to be an important player for Ireland in years to come. Having appeared for QPR on more than one occasion towards the end of last season, he can expect more regular first-team game time now that the club are in the Championship, with star forward Charlie Austin expected to leave.

2. Brian Lenihan

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Blackpool v Bolton Wanderers - Bloomfield Road Source: EMPICS Sport

The Cork-born defender attracted interest from a number of high-profile clubs, including Arsenal, before eventually signing with Hull last August. He went on loan for an injury-ravaged stint at Blackpool thereafter, but can probably expect game time with the Tigers this season, particularly in light of their demotion to the Championship.

1. Jack Byrne

Soccer - Barclays U18 Premier League - Final - Manchester City v Everton - Goodison Park Source: Mike Egerton

A teenage midfielder who has earned praised from City EDS coach Patrick Vieira, all the signs are promising for the Dubliner, who was given a well-deserved boost in the form of a new contract and an exciting-looking loan move to Dutch top-flight side Cambuur this week.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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