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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 26 April, 2019

10 young Irish footballers who could make a breakthrough in 2019

These youngsters will all be hoping to make significant strides over the next 12 months or so.

WE’VE PICKED OUT 10 young Irish footballers who you could be hearing plenty more about in 2019.

(Players who have already been capped by the Republic of Ireland at senior level have been excluded)

Let us know in the comments section if there are others who you fancy to make their big breakthrough next year.

Aaron Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion)

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

A regular goalscorer for his club at U23 level, Connolly’s progress has been evidenced by his presence in the first-team squad’s travelling party for several recent Premier League fixtures. The 18-year-old from Galway has also reportedly attracted interest from as far away as Germany’s Bundesliga.

Brighton manager Chris Hughton (November 2018): “We take a great interest in the U23s and on lots of occasions they will train with us. We’re very aware of Aaron’s strengths. He’s somebody from the age he first played who has always scored goals. At the moment he’s playing in a good team. He’s very much on our radar but he is one of a good group of players who are excelling this season.”

Adam Idah (Norwich City)

Adam Idah arrives Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Another striker who has been prolific for his club’s U23 side, many Norwich City fans have been calling for Idah to be given an opportunity to impress in the first team for the Premier League promotion chasers. The 17-year-old Cork native is likely to play a prominent role for the Ireland U19 side when they aim to book their place at next summer’s European Championship with elite qualifying round games against Russia, Romania and Azerbaijan.

Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool)

Paris Saint-Germain v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League - Group C - Parc des Princes Source: PA Archive/PA Images

As well as featuring in the Republic of Ireland senior set-up, the 20-year-old goalkeeper has been involved with Liverpool’s first-team squad for several Champions League games this season. He was rewarded with a new contract at Anfield in August. The Cork youngster would benefit from a loan move in order to further his experience.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (August 2018): “He is an outstanding talent. Outstanding. If nothing serious happens, he has a really fantastic future. I don’t know how many really good goalkeepers Ireland have, but one more is never a big mistake. I like him a lot and I’m happy that we have him in our squad.”

Jimmy Dunne (Hearts — on loan from Burnley)

Jimmy Dunne Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

After being handed a new contract by Burnley during the summer, Dunne was sent out on loan to Hearts. The central defender played in every minute of their Scottish Premiership campaign until he was sidelined by an ankle injury earlier this month. The 21-year-old from Louth earned a first senior call-up from the Republic of Ireland in November.

John Mahon (Sligo Rovers)

inpho_01401363 Source: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Having broken into Sligo’s first team in April, the 18-year-old won back-to-back player of the month awards for his club. An imposing centre-half, Mahon went on to start in all of the Bit o’ Red’s remaining Premier Division fixtures, with the exception of one due to suspension. He was given a new two-and-a-half-year contract in June.

Former Sligo Rovers manager Ger Lyttle (June 2018): “John has a massive future in the game. It’s there for him to go on to bigger things. He can be a real, proper centre-half. He has a will to win, he is one of our own and he has all the attributes. The way he has slotted in seamlessly and been our best player in many matches has been a joy to watch.”

Josh Cullen (Charlton Athletic — on loan from West Ham United)

Wycombe Wanderers v West Ham United - Pre-Season Friendly - Adams Park Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Cullen, who was Ireland’s U21 captain for their recent European Championship qualifying campaign, was thriving while on loan at Charlton Athletic until he was struck down by injury. After making 10 consecutive starts for the League One side, the well-rounded midfielder was forced to undergo shoulder surgery. The English born 22-year-old is highly-regarded by Charlton boss Lee Bowyer, who’ll be glad to have him back when he returns from a 12-week lay-off, which is expected to end in February.

Kian Flanagan (Crystal Palace)

Kleton Perntreou Crystal Palace during the pre-season match at the Gallagher Stadium, Maidstone. Source: Tim Parker

An attacking midfielder, Flanagan has been making a very positive impression with Crystal Palace’s U23 side, for whom he has regularly contributed goals and assists. The London-born 19-year-old last featured for Ireland at U19 level back in March. 

Crystal Palace U23 manager Richard Shaw (November 2018): “I have been saying for a while now, since Kian came back into the building in July, he has really impressed me. His attitude, his application, and I think he has scored more goals now than he did last season… He works hard at his game every single day.” 

Lee O’Connor (Manchester United)

Lee O'Connor Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Another player who might benefit from a loan move, O’Connor has been making decent progress with Manchester United at U23 level and in the Uefa Youth League. In spite of the fact that he has yet to make a first-team breakthrough at Old Trafford, the 18-year-old from Waterford  — who’s comfortable operating anywhere across the back four — was called into the Ireland senior squad in November. O’Connor is captain of the Ireland U19s.

Ryan Manning (Rotherham United — on loan from QPR)

Rotherham United v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship - AESSEAL New York Stadium Source: Richard Sellers

The decision to send Manning out on loan to Championship rivals Rotherham United for the season angered many Queens Park Rangers fans. That has been compounded by the recent form of the 22-year-old creative midfielder from Galway, who has featured prominently for the Millers as they bid to avoid the drop to League One.

QPR manager Steve McClaren (November 2018): “Ryan is a player that I really like. In the first two weeks of pre-season I said to Les [Ferdinand] ‘wow, he’s a good player’. It was difficult for him to get regular games. He’s getting that now, which is vital experience, and I said to Ryan when he left ‘this is short term; you’re a future QPR player – go and get some experience and when you come back you’ll be better for it’.” 

Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur)

United Kingdom: Tottenham Hotspur v FC Internazionale - UEFA Youth League Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

The talented attacker, who doesn’t turn 17 until February, has garnered the attention of Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino thanks to his impressive displays for the club at U23 level and in the Uefa Youth League. The Dubliner could potentially play for Ireland in European Championships at the U17 and U19 grades in 2019, although his recent rate of progress suggests that it may not be long before he’s fast-tracked to represent his country at senior level too.

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