6 Irish players who face a big season in the Premier League

New Southampton signing Gavin Bazunu and others set for pivotal campaigns.

1. Gavin Bazunu

file-photo-dated-14-11-2021-of-manchester-city-goalkeeper-gavin-bazunu-who-has-been-ruled-out-of-the-republic-of-irelands-three-remaining-nations-league-games-this-month-issue-date-monday-june-6 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Gavin Bazunu had no shortage of options after an impressive loan campaign in League One with Portsmouth, where he was named the club’s Players’ Player Of The Season. One element of his next move was key though — he wanted to keep playing regular football and would not settle for a place on the bench. The Dubliner could easily have stayed at Manchester City if the latter had been the case. The 20-year-old instead joined Southampton on a five-year deal that could eventually be worth €18.5 million. The fee is a reflection of how highly the Ireland international is rated in English footballing circles. The Saints, who finished last season in 15th place, split their goalkeeping duties in the 2021-22 campaign. Alex McCarthy made 17 Premier League appearances with Fraser Foster playing 19 times — an indication that boss Ralph Hasenhüttl wasn’t entirely satisfied with either player. Foster has since moved on to Tottenham, while Bazunu is now expected to challenge and be preferred to McCarthy more often than not.

2. Seamus Coleman

seamus-coleman-23-of-everton-celebrates-the-1-0-victory Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Everton boss Frank Lampard has made no secret of how highly he regards Seamus Coleman on a personal level, memorably calling him “one of the best people I have ever met” after the Toffees narrowly avoided relegation last season. The Donegal native, however, has been at Everton since 2009 and made over 300 appearances during that lengthy stint. He turns 34 in October and he is clearly not quite the phenomenal athlete of his peak, which was arguably the 2013-14 season when he made the PFA Team of the Season as well as being voted Everton Players’ Player of the Season. Yet Coleman still made 34 appearances last season — more than any other Toffees player aside from Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, Demarai Gray and Anthony Gordon. He may be used more sparingly this season and could possibly slot in as the right-sided defender of a back three, where he was often deployed last season, rather than as an out-and-out full-back where he traditionally has played.  Either way, it seems fair to say the Irish skipper will remain an invaluable squad member in what could be another challenging season for the Toffees, who have lost key man Richarlison, while so far recruiting three players — James Tarkowski, Dwight McNeil and  Rúben Vinagre.

3. Nathan Collins

soccer-football-uefa-nations-league-group-e-ukraine-v-republic-of-ireland-stadion-miejski-lks-lodz-poland-june-14-2022-republic-of-irelands-nathan-collins-celebrates-scoring-their-first Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Nathan Collins made quite an impression in his Premier League debut campaign last year. Ostensibly signed as a backup for the experienced centre-back duo of James Tarkowski and Bee Mee, the Leixlip native ended up making 19 Premier League appearances and seemed to be one of the first names on the teamsheet by the end of the season. The 21-year-old’s performances in April were so impressive that he was nominated for Premier League Player of the Month and despite Burnley’s relegation, he emerged with great credit ultimately. Consequently, in the space of around 12 months, his transfer value nearly doubled. Burnley signed Collins for around €14 million from Stoke, while Wolves reportedly shelled out €24 million for the talented youngster, making him the most expensive Irish footballer ever. The Molineux outfit have a number of good defenders on their books already, including Conor Coady and Wily Boly, but given the money they paid, Collins is expected to feature regularly for Bruno Lage’s side as they look to build on last season’s 10th-place finish.

4. Mark Travers

mark-travers-42-of-bournemouth-applauds-the-travelling-supporters Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Mark Travers has had to fight for his place at Bournemouth. The 23-year-old made his Premier League debut way back in May 2019 amid a 1-0 win over Tottenham. However, with Aaron Ramsdale and Asmir Begovic at times among the rivals for his position, it was only last season that he firmly established himself as the club’s number one. “He epitomises everything we are,” said manager Scott Parker, after Travers made 46 appearances in all competitions as the Cherries won promotion from the Championship last season. The Maynooth native faces another big test in the coming campaign. As one of the promoted teams, Bournemouth will naturally be among the favourites for relegation, and so Travers will almost certainly be facing more pressure on his goal than he would have been accustomed to in the second tier.

5. Matt Doherty

london-england-3rd-april-2022-matt-doherty-of-tottenham-hotspur-during-the-premier-league-match-at-the-tottenham-hotspur-stadium-london-picture-credit-should-read-paul-terry-sportimage-credit Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Before an untimely injury cut short his season last year, Matt Doherty’s resurgence was arguably the story of the campaign from an Irish perspective. He looked surplus to requirements during Nuno Espírito Santo’s short-lived tenure in North London. However, once Antonio Conte took over as Tottenham manager, the Dubliner gradually regained something like his best form. The 30-year-old still had to wait until January for his first Premier League start of the season, but by the time of that unfortunate setback against Aston Villa in April, he was unquestionably first-choice in the wing-back role. He is not necessarily a guaranteed starter now, however. Emerson Royal remains on the books at the club, while another right wing-back, Djed Spence, has signed from Middlesbrough for a fee of around €24 million. Yet with Spurs in the Champions League this season, and Doherty’s ability to play on the left, the Irish international should see plenty of game time even if he has to settle for a place on the bench on occasion.

6. Shane Duffy

brighton-and-hove-albions-shane-duffy-during-a-pre-season-friendly-match-at-select-car-leasing-stadium-reading-picture-date-saturday-july-23-2022 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Irish player on this list facing the most uncertain future. Duffy had a superb start to last season, recovering well from a disappointing loan stint at Celtic and forcing his way back into the Brighton team. However, injury problems were partially responsible for curbing his momentum and the Derry native appeared very sporadically during the second half of the season, making just three Premier League starts since the turn of the year. Consequently, with his contract due to expire next summer, the 30-year-old needs a big campaign to convince Graham Potter he still has a long-term future at the club. Duffy held talks with the manager during the summer, as he contemplates his next move. Yet Potter has insisted the Irish defender remains  “a really important player for us and person in the group,” adding: “I love the big guy to death.” 

Other Irish players at Premier League clubs this season (excluding players on loan):

Mazeed Ogungbo

Ben Greenwood

Nico Jones
Alex Gilbert

Evan Ferguson


Caoimhin Kelleher

Newcastle United
Alex Murphy

Nottingham Forest
Harry Arter

Will Ferry

West Ham
Darren Randolph
Conor Coventry
Mipo Odubeko
Armstrong Oko-Flex


Joe Hodge
Connor Ronan

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel