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Bilic glowing in praise of O'Shea after Irish defender's Championship debut

The 20-year-old Dubliner came off the bench for West Bromwich Albion in yesterday’s draw with Brentford.

West Bromwich Albion's Dara O'Shea.
West Bromwich Albion's Dara O'Shea.
Image: Richard Sellers

WEST BROMWICH ALBION manager Slaven Bilic professed his love for Dara O’Shea in the aftermath of the Dubliner’s first outing in the Championship.

O’Shea acquitted himself well in the centre of West Brom’s defence after being introduced as a 49th-minute substitute in yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Brentford, which leaves Bilic’s side three points clear of Leeds United at the top of the table.

It was a significant milestone for the 20-year-old, who came through the West Brom academy after joining the club at 16 from St Kevin’s Boys.

A league debut caps a positive 2019 for O’Shea, who has also established himself as a key member of Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland U21 side this year.

“I don’t like to praise or criticise the players based on half an hour — it’s a bit amateur — but Dara… make no mistake, it’s very difficult for a young player to come into the game against a team who is on the front foot and good,” Bilic said, as reported by the Birmingham Mail.

“I am going to praise him, because I know he isn’t going to be ‘big time’. Dara is the future, and he can be the present.”

Bilic, who took charge of West Brom in June, added: “Dara is one of the reasons why when I came to the club we didn’t sign another defender. They wanted to bring in not only Semi [Ajayi] but another, because they were lacking numbers. I didn’t want to. Why? Because of Dara. I believe in him. Based on today, he’s a player. I love Dara.”

O’Shea was brought on to replace Kyle Bartley, who went off with a damaged ankle. With uncertainty over the extent of Bartley’s injury, further opportunities could come the Irish youngster’s way.

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O’Shea made his first-team debut for West Brom in their Carabao Cup first-round defeat to Millwall in August. He also featured regularly on the bench for Championship fixtures before he was finally given a chance to impress yesterday.

“It’s the best Christmas present,” he told the club’s official website. “It was great. It’s been my aim since I signed for the club to get in the first-team after signing as a scholar. It’s a proud moment for me, I am just really glad and I am really happy to have finally made it.

“Slaven said just do your thing. Do what you have been doing the whole time. Go out and play your game. He said I am good enough to play so I am well able for it.”

West Brom’s festive fixture list includes a trip to Barnsley on St Stephen’s Day and a home clash with Middlesbrough on 29 December, before a huge game on New Year’s Day at home to fellow promotion-chasers Leeds United.

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Paul Dollery

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