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6 Exciting Irish Youngsters Making Their First Team Breakthrough This Season

UEFA Under 21 EURO 2017 Qualifier, RSC, Waterford 7/10/2016 Republic of Ireland vs Serbia Ireland's Olamide Shodipo with Milan Gajic of Serbia Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

With fear over a lack of Irish talent emerging from academies in England, a number of bright prospects have burst onto the scene this season across the Irish sea.

The talent pool in Ireland seems to be growing too with Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle making moves to Preston while other League of Ireland players like Sean Maguire, Brandon Miele and Dylan Connolly are prime examples of those who have come home only to develop into even better players.

However, for the first time in a a few years a number of Irish underage internationals are finally making the breakthrough having graduated from their club academies. Although the listed players are all playing in the Championship, the added money and increasing amount of internationals in England’s second tier makes their rise an impressive feat.

With the Premier League still a gold mine, with limited opportunities for young players, these youngsters are making a name for themselves and will fancy their chances of a crack at the top.


Olamide Shodipo (Queens Park Rangers)

Leixlip man Shodipo made a strong start to the season as a regular under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Starts have been scarce since the Dutchman’s sacking, however the winger is still highly regarded at Loftus Road.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jonathan Spector of Birmingham City tries Olamide Shodipo of QPR during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Birmingham City at Loftus Road on September 24, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

He is a regular in the match day squads and with QPR putting a run of games together the pacy midfielder could be set for a run to maintain their momentum.


Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers)

Lenihan has become a starter for Blackburn after a few seasons on the periphery of the first team. He is now a key player for the strugglers and has developed into a ball-playing centre-back despite being a midfielder by trade.

BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Darragh Lenihan of Blackburn Rovers and Josh McEachran of Brentford FC in action during the Sky Bet Championship between Brentford and Blackburn Rovers on March 19, 2016 in Brentford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Capable of spraying some magnificent passes from his own half, Lenihan is also a robust player who is strong in the air. Having captained the Ireland Under-21s, he will be hoping to make another breakthrough in 2017 to the senior Irish squad.


Tom Field (Brentford)

Brentford’s Tom Field has enjoyed s promising start to the Championship season. Since key player Jake Bidwell left the club, the London-born player has forced his was into the team.

BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - December 31: Ivo Pinto of Norwich City and Tom Field of Brentford challenge for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Norwich City at Griffin Park on December 31, 2016 in Brentford, England. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images)

Capped at under-16 level for Ireland, Field can play at left-back or left midfield. With left-back s problem position for Ireland, Field will hope to catch the eye of Martin O’Neill, but an under-21 call may come first.


Liam Kelly (Reading)

Fresh from signing a new contract with Reading, Liam Kelly is one of Ireland’s most exciting prospects. With a style similar to that of Andy Reid or Wes Hoolahan, technically gifted Kelly is a consistent starter for the Royals.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Alex Iwobi of Arsenal (R) takes the ball past Liam Kelly of Reading (L) during the EFL Cup fourth round match between Arsenal and Reading at Emirates Stadium on October 25, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Already a member of Noel King’s Under-21 side, Kelly possesses the skill sometimes missing from the Ireland squad.


Ryan Manning (Queens Park Rangers)

Having made a sensational debut for QPR on New Year’s Eve, Galweigen Manning looks set for a run of games with the Rs. A set-piece specialist, Manning is another player that could soon feature for the senior team having played at underage level.

Under 19 International Friendly 8/9/2014 Republic of Ireland Ryan Manning Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Capable of playing in midfield or up front, Manning is certainly a player to watch out for. He has started the Rs’ last two games and has garnered much praise.


Connor Ronan (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

One of Wolves’ hottest prospects, England-born Ronan has represented Ireland at various underage levels. An attacking midfielder by trade, the 18-year-old is another exciting young Championship prospect.

UEFA European Under 17 Championship Group D, Sozopol Stadium, Sozopol, Belgaria 7/5/2015 Republic of Ireland vs Netherlands Ireland's Connor Ronan with Rick Van Drongelen of the Netherlands Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Kostadin Andonov

The former Rochdale youth has been the subject of a tug-of-war between England and Ireland but seems content and proud of wearing the green shirt, especially when he played in the Under-17 European Championship.

Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena

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Author: Nick Menezes

Nick is a soccer, GAA and rugby fanatic who has a worrying obsession with the Irish football team. His articles focus on Irish football and he also writes some light-hearted pieces, particularly quirky starting XIs.