# Potential
7 young Irish footballers who give us hope for the future
Samir Carruthers and several others who have the ability to make an impact in the coming years.

IRISH YOUNG PLAYERS, or more specifically the lack thereof, has been a cause of significant concern of late.

The fact that, as it stands, there will be no Irish-born players under the age of 23 starting for a club in the Premier League next season has instigated plenty of debate about the state of football on these shores.

However, while the future of the game in this country doesn’t exactly look rosy at present, there are a few players out there currently with the potential to silence the critics…

1. Reece Grego-Cox — QPR (Age: 18)

Reece Grego-Cox and Jairo Riedewald Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

As an Irish underage international who has made four appearances in the Premier League (albeit three of which came from the bench), Reece Grego-Cox is an obvious anomaly. The youngster has excelled for QPR’s reserves this season, and while relegation is a blow for the club, it could well be a blessing in disguise for the young London-born striker, whose opportunities for first-team action may increase as Chris Ramsey’s men look to offload some of their big-name players in order to cut costs.

2. Samir Carruthers — MK Dons (Age: 22)

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

A product of the Aston Villa youth system, some people may have feared Carruthers would fade into obscurity after making the move to League One last summer.

However, manager Karl Robinson had some high praise for the youngster at the time of his signing, telling reporters:

“He is part of the long-term strategy here and that’s shown with his three-year deal.

“He’s an exceptional talent and one day, I believe he will be back showcasing his ability at the top.”

And Carruthers has backed up his manager’s words this season, featuring 32 times in his club’s ultimately successful bid for promotion.

3. Shane Duffy — Blackburn (Age: 23)

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic - Ewood Park EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

Duffy, who has already been capped by Ireland at senior level, suffered a blow when he was let go by Everton last summer, nonetheless the Derry native proved he had the character to recover by settling in well to life at Blackburn. The youngster impressed at Ewood Park before a knee injury ended his season prematurely last February.

4. Ian Lawlor — Man City (Age: 20)

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

The six-foot-four-inch Dublin-born goalkeeper has yet to play senior football with Man City, however, he is considered a bright prospect by the club. Furthermore, Lawlor has played UEFA Qualifiers for Ireland U19s, as well as impressing with the Blues’ Developmental side, having been picked up by the club from Home Farm, where Richard Dunne and many others also started off their footballing life.

5. Sean Kavanagh — Fulham (Age: 21)

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

A defender who can also play as a midfielder, the 21-year-old signed a new contract with the club at the beginning of the year, rewarding the progress he has made that saw the youngster feature 19 times times for the Championship club this season. In addition, he has also been called up to the Irish senior squad already.

6. Tommie Hoban — Watford (Age: 21)

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Chelsea v Watford - Stamford Bridge Adam Davy Adam Davy

With no Irish-born players under 23 likely to feature in the Premier League next season, Londoner Tommie Hoban, who has represented the Boys in Green at underage level, represents the next best thing. This season, Hoban played an important role in Watford’s successful promotion campaign, making 27 appearances, and he is also expected to get game time with the Hornets in the top flight next season.

7. Brian Lenihan — Hull (Age: 20)

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

A very promising former Cork City defender, Lenihan had been linked with a series of high-profile clubs, including Arsenal, before eventually signing for Hull last summer. The full-back spent part of this season on loan at Blackpool and was even called up to the Ireland squad prior to their Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Germany last October. Moreover, as with Grego-Cox, Steve Bruce’s side’s relegation to the Championship may not necessarily be a bad thing for Lenihan’s own progress in the first team.

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