The FA Cup third round begins on Friday night.
This weekend, both Premier League, and Championship clubs enter the FA Cup, ahead of an exciting weekend of action for Irish players.
While there may not be too many Irish players strutting their stuff in the Premier League, the FA Cup offers many lower league sides, which happen to have a few Irish players, a chance to cause an upset or two.
And that it may, as Ireland’s talent will look to take centre stage across the Irish Sea.
With that in mind, we have taken a look at some of the games that *should* have plenty of Irish interest this weekend.
Newcastle v Cambridge United (Saturday, 3pm).
Newcastle United may have sold out St. James’ Park for their home tie against League One Cambridge United, and with their new takeover, it is easy to see why.
But Cambridge’s Wes Hoolahan will be hoping to create an upset at the famous ground, as his side visit Tyneside.
Former Ireland U21 skipper Conor Masterson was also set to feature, but he has been recalled by his parent club QPR, this week.
Hoolahan, however, is built for the big stage, and will be hoping that he can impress at one of English football’s most famous venues one more time.
And against a struggling Newcastle, he could just do that. For the Toon Army, they do have Jeff Hendrick and Ciaran Clark on their books, so there is potential for those two to also feature.
West Brom v Brighton (Saturday, 3pm).
While Brighton may have loaned out one of their Irish players, Aaron Connolly, earlier this week, they may be about to hand Evan Ferguson his first senior start for the club.
Brighton have opted to pick much-changed sides in cup competitions under Graham Potter, and this weekend should be no different.
Ferguson has been on the bench for the Seagulls in the Premier League recently, and if he was to get his chance to play, this could be it.
For West Brom, however, they also have a strong cohort of Irish players within their first-team squad that could also feature.
Jayson Molumby and Callum Robinson are two in particular, but this weekend will come too soon for Dara O’Shea, who is just returning from a long-term injury sustained in September.
QPR v Rotherham (Saturday 3pm).
Irish trio Chiedozie Ogbene, Kieran Sadlier and JJ Kayode will be hoping that they can land a knockout blow to Championship high-flyers QPR on Saturday afternoon.
Ogbene, of course, is a first-team regular for the League One side, with Sadlier and Kayode both playing bit-part roles at the club this term.
But that should not be a major concern ahead of the FA Cup, with both players looking to force their way back into their manager’s league plans.
People talk about the unfortunate Mark Travers, but spare a thought for these two. Jimmy Dunne (QPR, 24) and Darragh Lenihhan (Blackburn, 27) have been up there with the best centre-backs in the Championship this season. Two lads at the top of their game ?#COYBIG pic.twitter.com/P68wjGPm9Q
— Kenny’s Kids (@KennysKids) January 4, 2022
For QPR, they have just recalled former Ireland U21 captain Conor Masterson from a loan with Cambridge United, while Jimmy Dunne is also impressing at the club.
While Masterson is unlikely to feature, Dunne may, as he looks to help the West London side reach the 4th round of the FA Cup at Loftus Road.
Mansfield Town v Middlesbrough (Saturday, 12.15pm).
While not exactly a glamour tie for the neutral, this game should have plenty of Irish involvement in it.
Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough have just snapped up Ireland international Aaron Connolly on loan until the end of the season.
As a result, the Galwegian may make his first start for Boro against their League Two opponents.
For Mansfield, however, they have plenty of Irish players within their ranks that may feature on Saturday lunchtime.
Most notably, former Ireland international Stephen Quinn is on their books, alongside with six others.
Ryan Burke, James Clarke, Corey O’Keefe, Harry Charsley, Stephen McLaughlin and John-Joe O’Toole all hail from these shores, and may feature in some capacity.
Cardiff City v Preston North End (Sunday, 2pm).
And on Sunday afternoon, Championship rivals Cardiff City and Preston North End will take on one another in an intriguing tie at the Cardiff City Stadium.
With both teams enduring difficult seasons so far, the FA Cup may provide either with the shot in the arm they need to get their campaigns back on track.
For the Bluebirds, Ireland U21 defender Mark McGuinness is likely to feature, should Cardiff pick a strong starting XI.
?@MarkMcguinness0‘ late header earned City a point when we were last in action on December 11th. ⚽️
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) December 30, 2021
His defensive, and Ireland U21 teammate Joel Bagan may also play, as he continues his return to fitness following a recent injury. James Collins is also likely to start.
For Preston, however, some of their players that may play include Alan Browne and Sean Maguire, alongside Greg Cunningham.
You can follow how the Irish get on over on Kenny’s Kids this weekend, with the FA Cup 3rd round set to begin on Friday night.
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