With no inter-county football or provincial rugby on the horizon, we have decided to ignite some tribal rivalry that is so unique to Ireland now that football looks set to return.
We have updated our four provincial Irish football teams with a lot of changes from our 2016 and 2017 editions but we have still managed to construct four sides.
Let’s take a look.
Leinster have arguably the strongest team to pick from with a blend of youth and experience in what is a predominantly Dublin-born side.
Darren Randolph (West Ham) of Wicklow is in goal with all of the back four apart from Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn/Meath) hailing from Dublin with Matt Doherty (Wolves) and Enda Stevens (Sheffield United) two of the best full backs in the Premier League this season and Dara O’Shea (West Brom) enjoying a breakthrough season.
The midfield diamond is also made up of Jason Knight (Derby County), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Robbie Brady (Burnley) and Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers) who are all Dubs in addition to the front two of Troy Parrott (Spurs) and Dublin-born Michael Obafemi (Southampton).
Unlucky to miss out: Mark Travers (Bournemouth/Kildare) , Stephen Henderson (Crystal Palace/Dublin) Nathan Collins (Stoke City/Kildare), Jimmy Dunne (Burnley/Louth), Glenn Whelan (Fleetwood Town/Dublin), Johnny Hayes (Celtic/Dublin), Armstrong Oko-Flex (Celtic/Dublin) Alan Judge (Ipswich Town/Dublin) Sean Maguire (Preston/Kilkenny), Jonathan Afolabi (Celtic/Dublin)
Another provincial side strong on central midfielders, Munster contain two of the most exciting prospects in Irish football in Waterford’s Jayson Molumby (Brighton- on loan at Millwall) and Cork’s Adam Idah (Norwich).
There are Waterford wingbacks in Derrick Williams (Blackburn Rovers) and Lee O’Connor (Celtic) while beside ex-Inter Milan man Ryan Nolan (Arezzo/Clare) there is a Cork partnership in central defence with Kevin Long (Burnley) and John Egan (Sheffield United) with fellow countyman Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool) behind them in goal.
Alan Browne (Preston/Cork), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa/ Cork) and Shane Long (Southampton/Tipperary) are some familiar faces who make up the side.
Unlucky to miss out: Colin Doyle (Hearts/Cork), Jack Brady (Shelbourne/Tipperary), Barry Cotter (Ipswich/Clare), Shane O’Neill (Seattle Sounders/Cork), Eoghan O’Connell (Rochdale/Cork), Sean McLoughlin (Hull City/Cork), Barry Coffey (Celtic/Tipperary), Will Fitzgerald (Waterford United/Limerick), Chiedoze Ogbene (Rottherham/Cork), Daryl Murphy (Bolton Wanderers/Waterford)
Connacht was a bit of a challenge to get a team out of. In previous editions we had to exploit the loophole of including Athlone natives such as Robbie Benson and Alan Sheehan but have decided not to this time.
In addition to this, the retirement of David Forde leaves the soon to be released Conor O’Malley (Peterborough/Mayo) as the only option in goal.
Fellow Mayo men Noe Baba (Fortuna Koln) and John Mountney (Dundalk) are in the side with a litany of Galwegians completing the rest of the team.
The remainder of the back four consists of Greg Cunningham (Blackburn Rovers), the aforementioned Baba, as well as the Shaughnessy brothers, Joe (Southend) and Conor (Burton Albion).
Mountney is in the midfield alongside Accrington Stanley captain Seamus Conneely flanked by Ryan Manning (QPR) and Daryl Horgan (Hibernian).
Aaron Connolly who enjoyed a breakthrough season at Brighton is partnered by Pat Hoban (Dundalk) up front in what could certainly be an alternative national team pairing.
Unlucky to miss out: Michael Schlingermann (Galway United/Mayo), Colm Horgan (Derry City/Galway), Stephen Folan (South Melbourne/Galway United), Ryan Connolly (Finn Harps/Galway), David Cawley (Sligo Rovers/Mayo), Ronan Murray (Sligo Rovers/Mayo), Rory Gaffney (Shamrock Rovers/Galway)
Just like Connacht, getting a player for each position was difficult for Ulster and for that reason, the ‘granny rule’ was called upon to recruit Norwegian born goalkeeper Sean McDermott (Kristiansund) who spent time in his youth in Donegal.
Ireland captain Séamus Coleman (Everton/Donegal) is at right-back, James McClean (Stoke City/Derry) out of position on the opposite flank and Shane Duffy (Brighton/Derry) and Oisín McEntee (Newcastle/Cavan) complete the back four.
Eunan O’Kane (Luton Town/Derry) partners promising Aston Villa midfielder Jake Doyle-Hayes (Cavan) in the centre with yet another Derryman Patrick McEleney (Dundalk) ahead of them.
McEleney’s Dundalk teammate Michael Duffy (Dundalk/Derry) and London-born but Derry-raised Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth) flank the well-travelled Cillian Sheridan (Wisla Plock/Cavan).
Unlucky to miss out: Aaron McCarey (Dundalk/Monaghan), Mark Connolly (Dundee United/Monaghan), Shane Blaney (Doncaster, Rovers/Donegal), Stephen Mallon (Sheffield United/Antrim), Stephen McLoughlin (Southend United/Donegal), Darron Gibson (Free agent/Derry), Aaron McEneff (Shamrock Rovers/Derry), Rory Hale (Crusaders/Antrim), Ronan Hale, St. Patricks Athletic/Antrim)
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