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Player ratings: How the Irish footballers in Britain and beyond fared this season

A comprehensive look at all the players in and around Stephen Kenny’s squad.

Everton's Seamus Coleman (file pic).
Everton's Seamus Coleman (file pic).
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated May 24th 2022, 9:39 PM

Updated at 07.34

N.B. For the purposes of concision, we’ve restricted this list to players who have been in and around the Irish squad in recent times. Each player is also judged according to their level, so a League One player who scores higher than a Premier League star does not necessarily make him a better footballer in our eyes.

Goalkeepers

Gavin Bazunu: 44 appearances in League One. Portsmouth may have missed out on promotion, finishing 10th, but the 20-year-old Man City loanee still distinguished himself, winning the Players’ Player Of The Season award. It’s no surprise to hear that he has been linked with more than one Premier League club amid doubts surrounding his future at the Etihad, while Pompey boss Danny Cowley recently suggested the youngster is “ready to play” in the top flight. 9/10

Mark Travers: A key part of the Bournemouth team that won promotion to the Premier League, picked up the Championship’s golden gloves for his displays this season. Manager Scott Parker subsequently paid glowing tribute to the Maynooth native, saying he “epitomises everything we are”. 9/10

Max O’Leary: Struggled to get a look in for much of the campaign with Bristol City. O’Leary, who has yet to be capped by Ireland but was called up to the squad for the recent fixtures against Belgium and Lithuania, had to be content with nine Championship appearances, as Daniel Bentley was generally preferred in goal. 5/10

Caoimhín Kelleher: On the one hand, Kelleher was integral to Liverpool’s League Cup triumph, playing regularly in that competition and scoring the winning penalty after a solid display in the final against Chelsea. But beyond that, he featured just twice in the Premier League and twice in the FA Cup. Along with City, Liverpool would be most people’s choice as the best team in the world right now, so for an Irishman simply to be part of the squad is a considerable achievement. But at 23, Kelleher may be tempted to seek more regular first-team football elsewhere as he aims to challenge Bazunu for Ireland’s number one jersey. 7/10

Defenders

Nathan Collins: His season may have ended on a sour note, as Collins conceded a handball for a penalty against Newcastle amid a loss that saw Burnley relegated. Overall though, the 20-year-old has had an excellent campaign, featuring 19 times in the Premier League alone and even earning a nomination for Premier League player of the month for April. 8/10

Darragh Lenihan: The 28-year-old Dunboyne native has been at Blackburn for over a decade, joining from the renowned Dublin schoolboy side Belvedere. He has been a key player for a large portion of that time, and this season was no exception, as the club’s bid for promotion fell disappointingly short despite some highly promising moments during the campaign. Lenihan earned a place in the WhoScored Championship Team of the Season for his efforts and is unlucky not to have more than two Ireland caps — an indication of the level of depth available to Stephen Kenny at centre-back more than anything else. 9/10  

Shane Duffy: The 30-year-old’s season started off in promising fashion, as he looked to have won his place back in the Brighton team after an unsuccessful loan spell at Celtic last year. An injury didn’t help matters, but the Derry native has struggled to get a look-in of late, making just five Premier League appearances since the turn of the year. Seagulls boss Graham Potter recently suggested the pair would sit down for talks regarding the player’s future in the summer, but added that Duffy was “still a really important player for us and person in the group”. 6/10

Andrew Omobamidele: A breakthrough season for the 19-year-old as he made his Premier League debut and also impressed on international duty with Ireland. He made five top-flight appearances in total for a struggling Norwich side, but has only appeared once since Dean Smith took over as manager, with a persistent back problem ending his season prematurely. 7/10

Dara O’Shea: A long-term injury suffered during Ireland’s World Cup qualifier away to Portugal in September was largely to blame for O’Shea missing a substantial portion of the season. However, the 23-year-old still managed 14 Championship appearances in total, having first returned to the first team in February. 7/10

Seamus Coleman: A tough season for the Donegal native. Everton struggled in general and Coleman was one of the many players singled out for blame. However, the 33-year-old showed impressive resilience, featuring regularly in the Toffees’ ultimately successful fight against relegation. The former Sligo player consequently earned glowing praise from manager Frank Lampard, who described Coleman as “one of the best people I have ever met”. 7/10

John Egan:  The 29-year-old Corkonian suffered Championship playoff heartache, as his Sheffield United side were beaten on penalties in the semi-finals against Nottingham Forest. Nonetheless, 48 appearances in all competitions emphasises how integral he remains to the Blades. 8/10

Ryan Manning: The 25-year-old Galway native has now fully established himself as a regular at Swansea, playing 42 times in all competitions amid a solid season. Unfortunately, it was a fairly forgettable campaign for the Welsh side, as they finished 15th in the table. However, the wing-back’s encouraging form was rewarded at international level, as he featured in both recent friendlies against Belgium and Lithuania, starting the latter game. 7/10

Matt Doherty: The Dubliner looked surplus to requirements under Nuno Espírito Santo, but is one of several Spurs players who has been rejuvenated since Antonio Conte took charge. Doherty only earned his first Premier League start of the season in January, but he went on to make nine starts in total before an unfortunate season-ending medial collateral ligament injury suffered against Aston Villa in April. 7/10

Jimmy Dunne: Another talented defender who probably would have been capped by now were the competition at centre-back not so strong. Dunne joined QPR from Burnley last summer and has impressed during his first season with the club, making 43 appearances in all competitions. 8/10

Enda Stevens: A frustrating season for Stevens, as injury problems limited him to 24 appearances for Sheffield United in all competitions and meant he missed their all-important playoff second-leg against Nottingham Forest, which they lost on penalties. However, the 31-year-old undoubtedly remains an important player for both the Blades and Ireland. 7/10

cyrus-christie Cyrus Christie (file pic). Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Cyrus Christie: Having found himself surplus to requirements at Fulham, Christie barely featured at all in the first half of the season. A subsequent January loan move to Swansea paid dividends, as he made 23 appearances in total for the Welsh outfit, scoring three goals in the process. His contract with the London side is set to expire, so the 29-year-old is likely to be on the lookout for a new club this summer. 7/10

Liam Scales: Unfortunately, the move from Shamrock Rovers to Celtic hasn’t worked out well so far for Scales. He has started just eight times for the Scottish giants, with his most recent appearance coming in February against Bodo/Glimt — a performance for which he drew criticism. Injuries have partly contributed to his lack of progress, but it’s clear the 23-year-old still has work to do to convince manager Ange Postecoglou that he is worthy of a regular first-team place. 5/10

James McClean: McClean’s career seemed to be drifting a bit at Stoke, and so the summer move to Wigan felt needed. It may have seen him drop down a division, but McClean gained a new lease of life as a result, scoring 10 goals in 37 appearances overall, as the Latics’ promotion bid was successful, and earning the Derry native a place in the League One Team of the Season. 9/10

Midfielders

Jeff Hendrick: Hendrick’s time at Newcastle appears to be nearing its conclusion, as the Dubliner made just three Premier League appearances for the Magpies this season. He fared somewhat better after a January loan move to QPR, but still struggled to set the Championship alight, starting just seven times in his spell there. 5/10

Harry Arter: Largely a season to forget for the 32-year-old. His club Nottingham Forest may be on the brink of promotion, but he has struggled away at a lower level. A loan spell at Charlton Athletic didn’t work out — he made just six appearances for the Addicks and was troubled by a hamstring issue during his time with the League One outfit. He then made a short-term switch to Notts County in the National League, before returning to his parent club after nine appearances for the non-league side. 5/10  

Conor Hourihane: With no future seemingly at Aston Villa, Hourihane spent the season on loan at Sheffield United. Yet the Bandon native was generally a squad player at the Blades, often being introduced as an impact sub while starting 15 of their 48 (including the playoffs) Championship games. He did come off the bench in their all-important semi-final against Nottingham Forest but unfortunately proceeded to miss one of the penalties in the shootout. In recent weeks, he has been linked with a reunion with old boss Steve Bruce, who reportedly wants to bring him to West Brom. 6/10

Alan Browne: A solid if unspectacular season for Browne. He made 39 appearances for a Preston side, who finished 13th in the Championship. The player himself admitted his performances could have been better at times, while four goals in a slightly disappointing tally when you consider he hit 12 in the 2018-19 campaign. 7/10 

Josh Cullen: Given Irish fans’ lack of access to Belgian football, Cullen’s progress at Anderlecht has gone somewhat under the radar. Yet the 26-year-old has been earning rave reviews for his displays with Vincent Kompany’s men, recently making the CIES Football Observatory’s Team of the Season there. 9/10 

Jayson Molumby: A decent campaign for the 22-year-old. He made 17 starts in the Championship for West Brom, and the Baggies ultimately opted to turn his loan move from Brighton into a permanent one, as the Cappoquin native signed on a three-year deal. You still feel that he has more to offer though, particularly having looked so impressive in the 2019-20 campaign when he made 36 appearances for Millwall. 7/10 

Jason Knight: The 21-year-old won plenty of admirers despite being part of a Derby team that were relegated ultimately. He made 39 appearances in all competitions for the Rams with boss Wayne Rooney recently praising his work rate and “infectious” energy. With Derby in a difficult position financially, it would no surprise to see the former Cabinteely player move on, with Everton and Wolves among the Premier League clubs he was linked with in January. 8/10

Conor Coventry: Among the most likely of Jim Crawford’s U21 side to soon secure a regular place in the Ireland senior squad, having already been called up by Stephen Kenny in March last year. A similar type of player to former West Ham teammate Josh Cullen, Coventry has the potential to have just as big an impact on the Irish setup. By his own admission, a loan spell at Peterborough in the first half of the season didn’t go as well as he would have hoped, but far more encouraging was a subsequent stint at MK Dons. The young midfielder made 22 appearances for the League One side, as they fell agonisingly short of promotion by a single point before losing to Wycombe in the playoffs. 8/10

Aaron McEneff: Things haven’t gone fully to plan for McEneff since leaving Shamrock Rovers last year. Hearts enjoyed an excellent season by their standards, finishing third in the Scottish Premiership and reaching the cup final. However, the 26-year-old had to settle for being a squad player. He did make 22 appearances in all competitions but only six of those were league starts. He was called up by Kenny for a Bulgaria Nations League game in November 2020 due largely to an abundance of Covid withdrawals, but McEneff clearly has work to do if he is to regain his place in the Ireland squad. 5/10

Mark Sykes: The 24-year-old midfielder recently sealed a move to Bristol City after an impressive season with Oxford, as he made 45 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight goals in the process. He has yet to be capped but was included in the squad for the March friendlies with Belgium and Lithuania. Per the Irish News, if he does make his international bow, Sykes will become the first Belfast man to play for the Republic of Ireland since Jackie Vernon in the 1940s. 8/10

Jack Taylor: A player that Kenny has expressed admiration for going back to his time as U21 manager, it was a difficult season for Taylor and Peterborough as they were relegated from the Championship. However, 34 appearances in England’s second tier is a good achievement for someone who is still only 23. 7/10

Sammie Szmodics: Was called up to the squad for the games against Andorra and Hungary last year, but has yet to be capped by Ireland. This season saw the 26-year-old make 39 appearances in all competitions for a Peterborough side who were relegated from the Championship, with the player scoring seven goals in the process. 7/10

Attackers

callum-robinson Callum Robinson (file pic). Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Callum Robinson: A player who has had a better season for his country than his club — of the 14 goals Robinson has managed in this campaign, six were for Ireland. He started 26 of West Brom’s 46 Championship matches, as the Baggies finished a disappointing 10th. Three goals in his opening three games suggested he was set for a stellar season, but the 27-year-old struggled to maintain this consistency thereafter. 7/10

Connor Ronan: Scored eight goals in 30 appearances in a successful loan spell for a St Mirren side that finished ninth in the Scottish Premiership, picking up their Player of the Season award before prematurely returning to parent club Wolves due to injury. His encouraging form earned him a call-up to the Ireland squad for recent friendlies with Belgium and Lithuania, and his next move will be an important one — Ireland don’t have an abundance of attacking creative midfielders to choose from, so Kenny will be hoping the 24-year-old can build on a strong season. 8/10 

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Jamie McGrath: An encouraging first half of the campaign with St Mirren earned McGrath a move to Wigan Athletic. However, since linking up with the Latics, the 25-year-old has been invariably out of favour. The former Dundalk player has featured just twice in League One since joining his new club in January and was recently dropped from the Ireland squad as a result of his lack of game time. 6/10

Daryl Horgan: The 29-year-old did not always start for Wycombe, featuring in 24 out of a possible 49 league games. However, he was more involved as the season developed and started in all three of their playoff matches, as Gareth Ainsworth’s men lost out to Sunderland at Wembley in the final. 7/10

Callum O’Dowda: A disappointing season for O’Dowda. He made 15 starts with Bristol City in the Championship, but injury problems curtailed his progress, with the winger last appearing for the club in February. The 27-year-old now must make a fresh start elsewhere, having recently been released by the Robins after six years with the club. 6/10

Robbie Brady: Joined Bournemouth in October after a spell as a free agent. However, the 30-year-old was very much a bit-part player in their successful promotion bid, with four of his six Championship appearances this season coming off the bench, as the lack of a proper pre-season hampered the Dubliner. Whether he sticks around for their Premier League campaign remains to be seen. 5/10

Troy Parrott: His name has been a fixture on Irish football fans’ lips for many years now, so it’s easy to forget Parrott is still only 20. The Dubliner joined MK Dons on loan from Tottenham at the beginning of the season, and his start there was less than ideal. After a reckless red card in November, he was criticised by boss Liam Manning and was out of the team for a period. However, after three goals in the first half of the season, Parrott finished the campaign strongly, registering six in his last 12 matches and coming so close to sealing promotion with his side. 7/10

Scott Hogan: A great first half of the season for Hogan was counteracted by indifferent form towards the end of the campaign. 10 goals in the Championship is a decent return, though the last of those came in January, as Birmingham stuttered to a 20th-place finish. 7/10

Chiedozie Ogbene: The 25-year-old scored as many goals for Ireland (3) as he managed with Rotherham in League One this season — though he often operates at wing-back for the Millers as opposed to the more attacking role Kenny usually deploys him in. Nonetheless, the former Cork City youngster impressed as his side earned promotion, registering 11 assists in 53 appearances, and he has recently been linked with a move to Swansea. 8/10

Will Keane: An outstanding season for Keane. He finished the League One campaign as joint-top scorer in the division with 26 goals, also producing seven assists, as Wigan won promotion. If he can take that form into the international setup, then the 29-year-old could potentially become a key player for Kenny. 9/10

Adam Idah: A desperately unlucky campaign for the 21-year-old. Idah scored his first-ever Premier League goal in Norwich’s 2-1 win over Everton, but just as he appeared to be establishing himself in the Canaries’ first team, a cruelly timed knee injury ended his season in February. He still managed 17 Premier League appearances overall, six of which were from the outset. 6/10

Michael Obafemi: After a slow start that saw him score just once before January, Obafemi has made the most of a move to Swansea, finishing the campaign with 12 goals from 34 appearances in total. Still only 21, injury problems have held the forward back in the past when it comes to both club and international football — his only senior appearance with the Boys in Green came under Martin O’Neill in 2018 — but Stephen Kenny will now be hoping he can push on after a hugely encouraging end to the season. 8/10

James Collins: A disappointing campaign by Collins’ standards. Having hit 13 goals in the Championship with Luton last season, he managed only three at Cardiff this term, as the Bluebirds finished 18th in the table. His future now looks to be in doubt, with his last league start coming in February and the Welsh side reportedly willing to listen to offers for the out-of-favour player. 6/10

aaron-connolly Aaron Connolly (file pic). Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Aaron Connolly: After limited game time with Brighton in the first half of the season, Connolly made a loan move to Middlesbrough in January. The 22-year-old managed just two goals in 13 Championship starts for Chris Wilder’s side. It consequently feels like his career is drifting somewhat, after a brilliant start to his Premier League career, and he has also been out of favour at international level recently, with his last appearance coming in the forgettable 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan in September. 6/10

Ronan Curtis: A solid season for Curtis as he hit eight goals in 43 appearances for a Portsmouth side that finished 10th in League One. There was talk of a possible move to a higher level last summer and Pompey may face another fight to keep hold of their key player in the coming months. 8/10

Shane Long: The fact that Long at 35 is still getting game time at Premier League level is an achievement in itself and a testament to the Tipperary native’s professionalism. He was very much a squad player though — of his 13 top-flight appearances for Southampton this season, 10 came from the bench. 6/10

Marcus Harness: Another Portsmouth player who could be on the move this summer, Harness had an excellent campaign, registering 11 goals in 40 appearances. Manager Danny Cowley described him as one of the best players in League One back in December, while he has been on the periphery of the Ireland squad for a while now. 8/10 

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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