The MLS season kicked off over the weekend minus Ireland and LA Galaxy legend Robbie Keane. Kevin Doyle and Chris McCann were flying the flag for Ireland following Keane’s hugely prolific spell in America.
Aside from Ireland-born players in the league, there are some Irish-Americans who may hope to force their way into Martin O’Neill’s plans. Although there are a huge number of Americans with Irish names in the MLS, not many have been formally deemed as eligible.
McCann’s Atlanta teammate and USA international Michael Parkhurst is the holder of an Irish passport and was once called up to the Ireland team during Steve Staunton’s tenure, but declined the offer.
Mike Magee, who was prolific in the league was Ireland-qualified. The recently retired striker was recommended to Martin O’Neill by Robbie Keane but nothing came to fruition. Cork-born Shane O’Neill, who now plays his football in Holland, was also on the FAI’s radar despite underage international honours for the States. Puerto Rico FC striker Conor Doyle, formerly of DC United, also represented both Ireland and the USA at underage level.
Although there has been a reluctance from past managers to dip into the Irish-American player pool, O’Neill has always been open to casting the net further. There are possibly more Irish identities to be revealed in the future with some Irish surnames suggesting that this could be the case.
The following are three players that are eligible for O’Neill’s side and will hope for a strong start to the MLS season to catch the eye of the Ireland boss.
The 26-year-old has actually had an experience in the Ireland camp after training with the side in New York prior to an international against Portugal in 2014. Although Meara did not feature in the 5-1 thrashing, it put him on the radar of Irish goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh, who himself enjoyed a brief stint in America’s indoor football circuit.
Meara has spent time with NY Red Bulls reserve team but will be hoping for a first team breakthrough if he is to harbour any international ambitions.
Pacy attacker Lamar Neagle became known to the FAI while at Seattle Sounders. A technically gifted player that can play on the wing or as a striker, Neagle scored nine goals for DC United last season. He is capable from set-pieces and is a natural finisher.
Given Ireland’s lack of depth up front, Neagle could offer an alternative option for O’Neill. However, due to turn 30 in two months time, the window for the Washington-born player could be narrowing.
Currently the holder of an Irish passport, winger Tommy McNamara has already been contacted by the FAI about his eligibility. An exciting winger full of tricks and with an eye for goal, McNamara is thriving under Patrick Vieira at New York City and will be benefiting from playing alongside Andrea Pirlo and David Silva.
An exciting prospect who could very well be wearing a green jersey before then end of the World Cup qualifiers, and a player who is still relatively young at 26.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena