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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020

12 Irish players hoping to cause major FA Cup third-round upsets this weekend

These Irishmen will be looking to pull off an old-fashioned giant-killing over the next 48 hours or so.

WITH 64 TEAMS IN FA Cup third-round action this weekend, there’ll be plenty of Irish interest as the competition springs to life with the addition of the Premier League clubs.

A dozen Irish players will be hoping to cause particularly significant upsets with their respective teams over the next 48 hours or so.

John O’Shea (Manchester United v READING)

John O'Shea John O'Shea Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Shea will be going up against the club with whom he won this competition in 2004 when Reading travel to Old Trafford tomorrow (12.30pm) for a game against a Manchester United side whose fortunes have improved significantly under the stewardship of his former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Royals will be looking to the FA Cup to provide them with a much-needed lift amid a run of 10 league games without a win, which has left them just one place off the bottom of the Championship.

David Meyler has been out of favour at Reading recently, having not featured for the first-team since September. Captain Paul McShane is currently sidelined through injury. Liam Kelly, who has yet to commit fully to Ireland, has been out of the team for the past seven games, while fellow U21 international Josh Barrett is cup-tied after playing in the competition earlier this season while on loan at Aldershot Town.

Seamus Conneely (ACCRINGTON STANLEY v Ipswich Town)

Accrington Stanley v Huddersfield Town - Pre-Season Friendly - The Wham Stadium Seamus Conneely Source: PA Archive/PA Images

With Ipswich Town currently languishing at the bottom of the Championship and Accrington Stanley in a healthy 12th place in League One, perhaps we’re using a measure of artistic licence by suggesting that a home win for Stanley tomorrow (3.00pm) would constitute a major shock.

Nevertheless, it could certainly be regarded as a significant giant-killing in the context of the size of the two clubs, should Seamus Conneely’s side emerge victorious at the 5,000-capacity Crown Ground. Conneely, who joined Accrington Stanley from Sligo Rovers in 2015, captained the club to the League Two title last season. 

Daryl Murphy (Chelsea v NOTTINGHAM FOREST)

Nottingham Forest v Newcastle United - Carabao Cup - Second Round - City Ground Daryl Murphy Source: Joe Giddens

Fresh from scoring in Nottingham Forest’s dramatic 4-2 victory over Championship leaders Leeds United during the week, the former Republic of Ireland striker will be hoping to add to his tally of five goals for the season tomorrow at Stamford Bridge (3.00pm).

Forest’s win on Tuesday has left them just four points outside the play-off places in the second tier, while FA Cup holders Chelsea — who were held to a goalless draw at home to Southampton on Wednesday — are currently in the fourth place in the Premier League.

The visitors are no strangers to causing FA Cup upsets against Premier League giants, having eliminated Arsenal at this stage of the competition last season.

Mark Byrne, Bradley Garmston and Callum Reilly (GILLINGHAM v Cardiff City)

Watford v Gillingham - EFL Cup - Second Round - Vicarage Road Mark Byrne Source: PA Archive/PA Images

FA Cup action affords both of these clubs some respite from their respective relegation battles. The team in 17th place in the Premier League will take on the side in 18th in League One tomorrow (3.00pm) when the latter, Gillingham, play host to Cardiff City. 

The Irish interest for the underdogs will be provided by former Crumlin United midfielder Mark Byrne, as well as English-born former Ireland U21 internationals Bradley Garmston and Callum Reilly. 

Paudie O’Connor and John O’Sullivan (BLACKPOOL v Arsenal)

Arsenal v Blackpool - Carabao Cup - Fourth Round - Emirates Stadium Paudie O'Connor wins a header against Danny Welbeck. Source: Tim Goode

This will be the second meeting of Blackpool and Arsenal this season. The Gunners had home advantage in their 2-1 Carabao Cup victory back in October, but tomorrow (5.30pm) they’ll make the journey to Bloomfield Road for another meeting with the League One side, for whom two Irishmen are likely to be involved.

Former Ireland U21 winger John O’Sullivan joined the Tangerines from Carlisle United last summer, while Limerick-born defender Paudie O’Connor is currently on loan from Leeds United. Club captain Jimmy Ryan, who’s a former Ireland U21 international, is unavailable due to a long-term injury.

O’Connor experienced mixed fortunes during the last meeting of these teams. Having headed in a second-half equaliser at the Emirates Stadium, he was shown a red card in the 84th minute for a challenge on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. 

James McKeown (Crystal Palace v GRIMSBY TOWN)

Coventry City v Grimsby Town - Sky Bet League Two - Ricoh Arena James McKeown Source: EMPICS Sport

Crystal Palace may only be six points clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone, but 67 places separate them and their opponents at Selhurst Park tomorrow (5.30pm).

Now in his eighth season with Grimsby Town, 29-year-old Birmingham-born goalkeeper James McKeown has made over 350 appearances for the League Two club.

McKeown was capped by the Republic of Ireland at U19 level. He also featured in several U21 squads alongside current senior internationals such as Seamus Coleman, Kevin Long, David Meyler and Alan Judge.

Anthony Forde (Manchester City v ROTHERHAM UNITED)

Rotherham United v Cardiff City - Pre Season Friendly - New York Stadium Anthony Forde Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Currently in 21st place in the Championship, Rotherham United will need to conjure up something extraordinary if they’re to topple Premier League champions Manchester City on their own patch on Sunday afternoon (2.00pm).

Former Dundalk star Richie Towell is suspended for the visitors as a result of the red card he received in last week’s defeat to Bristol City, while former Ireland senior international Darren Potter remains sidelined with an injury.

25-year-old Limerick winger Anthony Forde, who helped Rotherham to achieve promotion from League One last season, should be involved at the Etihad Stadium after featuring in their last seven Championship outings.

Pádraig Amond and Mark O’Brien (NEWPORT COUNTY v Leicester City)

Newport County v Colchester United - Sky Bet League Two - Rodney Parade Pádraig Amond Source: EMPICS Sport

Amond and O’Brien both know what it’s like to be involved in an FA Cup giant-killing with Newport County. Both players featured at this stage last season when the Welsh side shocked Leeds United with a 2-1 home win.

Their reward was a fourth-round home clash with Tottenham Hotspur, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Harry Kane scored a late equaliser after Amond opened the scoring. Spurs went on to win the replay 2-0 against the League Two side, who’ll host Premier League opposition again on Sunday (4.30pm) when Leicester City go to Rodney Parade.

Dublin-born defender O’Brien has been with Newport since he left Derby County in 2017, while Carlow native Amond is also in his second season with the club. The 30-year-old striker, who has scored 15 goals in all competitions this season, was rewarded with a one-year contract extension earlier today. 

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Paul Dollery

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