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20 Irish players to watch out for in the Football League this season

We’ve picked out a select few who we feel will make an impression throughout the course of the year.

THE NEW SEASON is just a matter of days away and while the build-up naturally revolves around the Premier League, there is actually just as much interest in the Football League from an Irish perspective.

It’s no secret that the number of Irish players plying their trade in the top-flight is dwindling so there’s now even more attention paid to how those with green roots are faring in the lower leagues.

While internationals such as Paul McShane, Stephen Quinn, Jeff Hendrick, David Meyler and Daryl Murphy will all be playing in the second tier, there are so many more Irish footballers in the lower leagues.

Sean Kavanagh (Fulham)

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

Sean Kavanagh enjoyed a breakthrough season at Fulham last year under Kit Symons as he made 19 appearances in the Championship, scoring once. The full-back, who can also play further forward, was rewarded with a long-term deal at Craven Cottage.

Paul Corry (Northampton)

Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Blackburn Rovers v Sheffield Wednesday - Ewood Park Source: EMPICS Sport

After moving to Sheffield Wednesday from UCD a couple of seasons ago, Paul Corry has found the going tough in England despite making a fine early impression. The midfielder made a handful of appearances for the Owls in his debut season but a spate of injuries saw him fall down the pecking order. After numerous loan spells with Football League clubs, he secured a move to Northampton this summer.

Enda Stevens (Portsmouth)

Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - Portsmouth v Coventry City - Havant and Waterlooville Source: John Walton

Another former League of Ireland player who is yet to find his way across the water. Four disappointing seasons at Aston Villa came to an end this summer but he had impressed sufficiently during loan stints to earn a move to Portsmouth under Paul Cook.

Kevin Long (Burnley)

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Queens Park Rangers v Burnley - Loftus Road Source: Daniel Hambury

After waiting for so long to make his Premier League debut, Kevin Long lasted just 14 minutes as he picked up a serious injury in the game away to Newcastle. It turned out to be a bittersweet week for the Corkman having just signed a new deal at Burnley. Having recovered from that knee injury, the defender will be determined to make up for lost time.

Eoin Doyle (Cardiff)

Soccer - PFA Player of the Year Awards 2015 - Grosvenor House Hotel Source: Stephen Pond

The Dubliner scored five league goals for Cardiff last season after joining the club from Chesterfield in the January transfer window. Will be a permanent fixture in the Bluebirds’ side again this season and you’d expect Doyle to continue his prolific goalscoring record. He was named in the League One Team of the Year 2015 for his exploits with Chesterfield.

Paddy Madden (Scunthorpe)

Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - Scunthorpe United v Sheffield Wednesday - Glanford Park Source: EMPICS Sport

The striker’s usual goalscoring levels dipped during his first season at Scunthorpe but Paddy Madden found the net 14 times in League One last time around. He’s one of the most consistent marksmen in the Football League.

Kevin Dawson (Yeovil Town)

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Yeovil Town v Manchester United - Huish Park Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

A former team-mate of Madden at Yeovil, Kevin Dawson’s stock continues to rise and he’ll want to establish himself in the engine room at Huish Park this season. The Dubliner has been at Yeovil for four years now and is clearly held in high regard.

Graham Burke (Notts County)

Soccer - Sky Bet League One - Gillingham v Notts County - Priestfield Stadium Source: Tony Marshall

One of the hottest young talents in the current Irish underage set-up, Graham Burke was released by Aston Villa at the end of last season but was picked-up straight away by Notts County. The 21-year-old spent time at Meadow Lane on loan last season, scoring once in seven league outings.

Carl McHugh (Plymouth Argyle)

Soccer - Sky Bet League Two - Shrewsbury Town v Plymouth Argyle - Greenhous Meadow Source: Dave Howarth

Carl McHugh rose to prominence during Bradford’s remarkable run to the Capital One Cup final a couple of seasons ago but he’s since moved on and now plies his trade with Plymouth. He featured in all of their games in League Two last term at right-back and will be another key player for the Pilgrims.

Pádraig Amond (Grimsby Town)

Soccer - Sky Bet League Two - Morecambe v Hartlepool United - Globe Arena Source: Dave Howarth

The former Shamrock Rovers and Sligo striker has been around the block having played with several clubs in England as well as a short stint in Portugal. However, he was snapped up by Grimsby during the summer after scoring eight goals for Morecambe last year.

Jake Carroll (Hartlepool United)

Soccer - Scottish Premiership - Celtic v Partick Thistle - Celtic Park Source: Danny Lawson

23-year-old Jake Carroll took his time deciding which club he would leave St Pat’s for in 2013 and after eventually choosing Huddersfield, it just didn’t work out for him in Yorkshire. After loan stints at Bury and in Scotland with Partick Thistle, the left-back now finds himself at Hartlepool.

Gearóid Morrissey (Cambridge United)

Gearoid Morrissey Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Moved to England last January after catching the eye in the SSE Airtricity League with Cork. Morrissey featured eight times during the second half of the season and after settling into his new club, will be hoping to kick-on this time around.

Rory Gaffney (Cambridge United)

Rory Gaffney Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Rory Gaffney didn’t have the start he would have liked to life at Cambridge after making the move from Limerick in January. The striker didn’t make a first team appearance for the League Two outfit due to injury and will hope to start afresh when the campaign kicks-off on Saturday.

John Egan (Gillingham)

Soccer - Sky Bet League One - Gillingham v Chesterfield - Priestfield Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

Established himself as a regular at Gillingham having made the switch from Sunderland last year and was named the club’s player of the season. Big things are expected of the 22-year-old again. Four league goals from a deep-lying position was a healthy return too.

Aiden O’Brien (Millwall)

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Millwall v Watford - The New Den Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

English-born but Aiden O’Brien has represented Ireland at various underage levels. Played 19 times last year for Millwall and found the net twice as the Lions suffered relegation to League One.

Kieran Sadlier (Peterborough United)

Soccer - FA Youth Cup - Fourth Round - West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Upton Park Source: EMPICS Sport

Another young Irish player who joined a new club during the summer, Kieran Sadlier earned a contract with Peterborough after a successful trial. The 20-year-old spent two years at West Ham and then played in Scotland with St Mirren last year. He scored one goal in 11 appearances from midfield.

Reece Grego-Cox (QPR)

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Leicester City v Queens Park Rangers - King Power Stadium Source: Stephen Pond

Reece Grego-Cox is highly-regarded and made his debut in March in the 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham. The striker made two more substitute appearances for QPR in the Premier League and then played 90 minutes against Leicester on the final day of the season. Chances have been at a premium for the 18-year-old but he might get more of a look-in in the Championship.

Ryan Manning (QPR)

Ryan Manning Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Indeed, QPR’s relegation could be good news for the two young Irish players at Loftus Road. With a significant drop in their budget, Chris Ramsey has been forced to stick with the pack he has and blood youth this season. Manning, who moved from Galway, last year, will be hoping to take advantage and make a name for himself this term.

Greg Cunnigham (Preston North End)

Soccer - Johnstone's Paint Trophy - Area Final - Second Leg - Bristol City v Gillingham - Ashton Gate Source: Nick Potts

The Republic of Ireland international suffered a setback a couple of seasons ago when he was released by Manchester City but soon found his feet at Bristol City where he was a consistent performer. But after making just nine league appearances during City’s League One winning campaign, he moved to Preston for an undisclosed fee.

John O’Sullivan (Blackburn Rovers)

Soccer - Sky Bet League Two - Accrington Stanley v Morecambe - Crown Ground Source: EMPICS Sport

The Dubliner has spent three seasons at Blackburn but only has a handful of appearances to his name. The 21-year-old gained experience with Southport, Accrington Stanly and Barnsley and will surely now hope to challenge for a spot in the first-team at Ewood Park.

The players above are just a select few of the many Irish players plying their trade in the Football League. Who will you be keeping your eye on this season?

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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