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5 Irish players that could make a Premier League breakthrough in 2022

Evan Ferguson and others close to getting game time in the top flight.

Brighton's Evan Ferguson (file pic).
Brighton's Evan Ferguson (file pic).
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Darragh Lenihan

AT CLUB level, Lenihan has been consistently one of the highest performing Irish players outside of the top flight in recent years. The 27-year-old Meath native has been a regular for several seasons at Blackburn and is club captain currently. The fact that he only has two Ireland caps at this point in his career is a reflection of the strength of Ireland’s options in his preferred position of centre-back. Yet there is every chance he could move up the pecking order at international level if Tony Mowbray’s side can maintain their recent encouraging run of form — they are currently third in the Championship, three points off table-toppers Bournemouth — and seal a Premier League place next season.

2. Evan Ferguson

Ferguson is highly thought of at Brighton. At 17, he has already played twice for the Seagulls at senior level, including an impressive recent substitute appearance in their FA Cup win over West Brom. He has also been named on the bench for a Premier League fixture on more than one occasion of late. The son of ex-League of Ireland player Barry, Ferguson, whose considerable physique belies his tender years, is used to being handed chances at a young age, having memorably first appeared for Bohemians’ senior team at 14. Getting a sustained run of games for Brighton will not be easy, as fellow promising Irish youngsters Aaron Connolly and Jayson Molumby know, but the teenage starlet certainly is developing to the extent that a top-flight bow does not appear too far off.

3. Gavin Kilkenny

The 21-year-old Dubliner was being tipped as a potential starter the last time Bournemouth were in the Premier League. At that point, he was seen as an exciting attacking midfielder in the Wes Hoolahan mould. Yet first-team opportunities were not forthcoming under Eddie Howe, but Scott Parker’s appointment as manager has helped provide Kilkenny with a new lease of life. Now, he is better renowned as a defensive midfielder expected to start up attacks, and his first-team prospects have improved as a result. In addition to being a regular for Ireland U21s, the St Kevin’s Boys graduate has made 13 appearances already this season for the Cherries. They currently sit top of the Championship, and so next year, Kilkenny could potentially be lining out alongside fellow Irish players Robbie Brady and Mark Travers in the Premier League.

4. Tayo Adaramola

The 18-year-old Ireland underage international signed his first professional contract with Crystal Palace back in November. He represented St Kevin’s Boys as a youngster before moving to London in 2014 in an attempt to improve his chances of making it in English football. Although yet to appear at senior level for the Eagles, left-back Adaramola is highly thought of at academy level and has unsurprisingly been compared to former club favourite Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The Daily Mail also tipped him as one of 12 young players set to break through this year, reflecting the high hopes prompted by his performances at youth level.

5. Armstrong Oko-Flex

A highly promising player, the 19-year-old Dublin-born attacker has already appeared twice for Celtic at senior level. Last June, he opted to leave Scotland and join West Ham. Ireland U21 boss Jim Crawford suggested back in November that the teenager could benefit from a loan move, though Oko-Flex has recently been named on the Hammers’ bench in both Premier League and FA Cup ties. Though the main striker Michail Antonio has impressed in recent times, West Ham currently don’t have a great deal of depth in the forward department. Both Oko-Flex and fellow Ireland underage international Mipo Odubeko are consequently potential options should they pick up a couple of injuries.

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