Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Anna Gowthorpe Conor Hourihane is expected to feature for Barnsley this weekend.
# Crunch time
It's set to be a huge weekend for these 12 Irish footballers
The Football League season is reaching its climax in the coming days.

N.B. For the sake of concision, we’ve restricted this list to players likely to feature this weekend, as opposed to peripheral squad members and anyone out injured.

1. Conor Hourihane (Barnsley — League One)

THE IRELAND U21 international has already had an excellent season, captaining Barnsley as they won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley. It could get even better this weekend. A win against already-promoted Wigan will seal their playoffs spot, while they could prevail regardless if rivals Scunthorpe and Gillingham slip up.

2. John Egan (Gillingham – League One)

The centre-back, who made the PFA League One team of the year, could help his side reach the playoffs. It remains a tall order for the Gills, however, as they need to win while hoping rivals Scunthorpe and Barnsley don’t triumph (they’re two points behind but with a better goal difference).

3. Anthony Forde (Walsall — League One)

Walsall still have a slight chance of gaining automatic promotion — they need to win by more than one goal or hope Burton Albion lose by more than one goal in order to avoid the playoffs. 22-year-old Limerick-born winger Forde has been an important player for the Saddlers, making 48 appearances for the club in all competitions this season.

4. Anthony O’Connor (Burton Albion — League One)

Soccer - Sky Bet League One - Burton Albion v Sheffield United - Pirelli Stadium Tim Goode Tim Goode

The 23-year-old Corkonian has been a decent squad member, making 24 appearances in all competitions. His side need just a point at Doncaster on Sunday to gain automatic promotion to the Championship.

5. Damien McCrory (Burton Albion — League One)

Limerick native McCrory has been a regular for the Burton side that are on the verge of promotion to the Championship.

6. Paddy Madden (Scunthorpe — League One)

Scunthorpe still have an outside chance of reaching the playoffs — they need to win and hope that Barnsley slip up against Wigan. They could also match Barnsley’s result and enter the playoffs with a big win, as they currently have a +11 goal difference with Barnsley’s at +13 currently. Former Bohemians striker Paddy Madden has been a key member of the side, scoring 22 goals this season.

7. Stephen Dawson (Scunthorpe — League One)

Chelsea v Scunthorpe United - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round - Stamford Bridge PA Wire / Press Association Images PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

30-year-old club captain Dawson has recovered well to lead his team to the brink of the playoffs, having missed most of the first half of the season with a knee injury.

8. Jimmy Ryan (Fleetwood — League One)

The Liverpool-born former Ireland U21 international has made an important contribution for Fleetwood, appearing 48 times in total this season. They are two points above the relegation zone, but their goal difference is so superior to Blackpool’s that a draw will virtually secure their safety.

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9. Colin Doyle (Blackpool — League One)

Walsall v Blackpool - Sky Bet League One - Banks's Stadium Barrington Coombs Barrington Coombs

Club captain Doyle has made 34 appearances for Blackpool, and the 30-year-old Corkonian needs a big display to help his side win, while hoping Fleetwood lose in order to avoid relegation to League Two.

10. Séamus Conneely (Accrington — League Two)

It’s a big weekend for Accrington, as a win will ensure they get promoted to League Two, while anything other than a Bristol Rovers victory will also send them up. The 27-year-old former Galway United and Sligo Rovers player Conneely will likely be key to their hopes, having made 48 appearances so far for the side this season.

11. Callum O’Dowda (Oxford — League Two)

The Ireland U21 international has caught the eye in League Two this season, while scoring nine goals in 49 appearances in all competitions. It’s quite simple as far as his side are concerned — they need to equal or better Bristol Rovers’ result this weekend to gain promotion to League One.

12. Rory Gaffney (Bristol Rovers — League Two)

It’s been a decent season for Gaffney, scoring 10 goals for Bristol Rovers and sealing a permanent move there from fellow League Two team Cambridge after an impressive loan spell. However, his side will have to settle for a playoffs place unless they can beat Dagenham and hope one of their rivals, Oxford or Accrington, slip up.

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