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Big Green Ladder: Rice Shines As Doherty Excels In Spite Of O’Neill

The fifth in Pundit Arena’s season-long weekly look at how the Irish contingent are faring in the English leagues.

After a week off for the international break, all four English divisions are back in full swing so let’s take a look at who is positioned where in the fifth instalment of Pundit Arena’s Big Green Ladder.


1) Matt Doherty (Up 9)

As far as statements go, Matt Doherty’s against Burnley was about as comprehensive as they come.

Following an international snub from O’Neill and an insightful “maybe my face doesn’t fit” pre-match interview, Doherty took to the Molineux pitch determined to prove a point and he put in the type of performance that’ll make the Irish management duo wince.

Doherty was a constant menace from the right-wing back position, providing the assist for Raul Jimenez’s match-winning goal.

The 26-year-old could have easily got on the scoresheet himself had he not snatched at a shot following another tremendous burst forward, and deservedly won the Man of the Match award in front of the Sky cameras.


2) Declan Rice (New Entry)

In case any Irish fans had forgotten what we’d miss out on should Declan Rice choose England, the 19-year-old was quick to remind everyone in West Ham’s 1-3 victory over Everton at the weekend.

Rice started in the middle of the park and was absolutely phenomenal, as he exorcised his Anfield demons from the opening game of the season.

Crisp and precise with his passing and dogged in his tackling, Rice gave Idrissa Gueye in the Everton midfield an incredibly tough afternoon as he controlled a fantastic West Ham performance.

Ireland will be praying that the England scouts watching at Goodison Park saw something different to everyone else.


3) Shane Duffy (Up 3)

Unfortunately, no clean sheet for Shane Duffy and Brighton but the Derry man was a key part of Hughton’s side coming back from two goals down against Southampton on Monday night.

A constant threat in the air from set-pieces, Duffy scored an excellent header to bring his side back into the game and his movement in the area led to him winning a late penalty which striker Glenn Murray duly dispatched.

Duffy was also excellent up against his international teammate Shane Long, whom he dealt with well in the air. Ings certainly proved to be a challenge for the 26-year old but overall he was a crucial part of Brighton picking up a vital point.


4) Callum Robinson (Down 1)

Buoyed by a couple of solid performances in his first two caps for Ireland, Callum Robinson was unquestionably the star of the show for Preston despite their 2-3 defeat to Reading.

Robinson appears to be really finding his feet in this North End side and is growing in confidence game on game.

The 23-year-old certainly deserved the goal he scored regardless of how easy the finish was. It was due reward for his tremendous efforts up top for the Deepdale club.

Another excellent display from a man who could become a staple of Irish squads for years to come.


5) Aiden O’Brien (New Entry)

An excellent week for goalscoring Irish debutant Aiden O’Brien, got even better following his performance in Millwall’s hard-fought 1-1 draw with Championship table-toppers Leeds United.

In the first half especially, O’Brien was positive in his play and looked as though he would make something happen whenever he got on the ball, himself and Meredith proving a constant thorn in Leeds’ side.

O’Brien was quieter in the second half of the game but should be lauded for the covering of his full-back as he continues to show the type of versatility that managers love.


6) Conor Hourihane (New Entry)

Hourihane will be disappointed not to have started Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw against Blackburn at the weekend, but had it not been for him it almost certainly would have been a 1-0 loss.

The midfielder came on in the 75th minute with Villa a goal down and immediately upped his side’s tempo with some crisp and concise passing in the middle of the park.

He then came to Steve Bruce’s rescue with a peach of a free-kick to snatch a point for Villa against a decidedly impressive Blackburn Rovers side.

Will almost certainly find himself back in the Villa starting lineup soon.


7) Ryan Manning (Re-entry From Week 3)

A young player who continues to impress once given the chance, Rotherham’s Ryan Manning will be wondering how fellow Championship strugglers QPR ever decided to let him out on loan in the first place.

Manning was in the Rotherham midfield alongside Irish cohort Richie Towell and looked his usual, comfortable self in possession up against a strong Derby County side.

The 22-year-old capped off a fine display with a very well taken penalty, his first goal for the Millers, who picked up a tremendous victory as they continue to punch above their weight in the Championship.


8) John Egan (Down 6)

A defeat for Egan’s Sheffield United side who had just started to build up an excellent run of form before the international break, but despite this, the Cork man still put in a shift at the heart of the Blades’ defence.

Egan was his usual confident self in possession and generally dealt with Bristol City well in the air as he looked to build upon an assured performance in a green shirt against Poland last week.

Becoming a stalwart in this Sheffield United side and looking like a real leader both on and off the field, Egan certainly won’t let this defeat get him down.


9) Ronan Curtis (Down 5)

A surprising week for Ronan Curtis in the sense that the Portsmouth man didn’t get on the scoresheet for the League One side for a change, but he was still a welcome addition back to the club following the international break.

Playing in a front three, Curtis absolutely tormented the Plymouth right-hand side and was the provider of both of Pompey’s goals in their crucial 2-1 victory over fellow contenders Peterborough on Saturday.

Curtis has now been involved in 66.6% of all the goals Portsmouth have scored in League One this season as he continues to be the stand-out player in the division.


10) Shane Long (Re-entry From Week 3)

Another start for Shane Long in a Southampton shirt and it looks as though the Tipperary native has shaken off the injury that kept him out of the two Irish games last week.

Long looked dangerous alongside strike partner Danny Ings and was his usual industrious and busy self, chasing down lost causes and making excellent runs to create space for his teammates.

Usually tremendous in the air, Long did have a tough time of it up against fellow Irish man Shane Duffy and the commanding Brighton defence, but it was still a solid performance from a player that certainly needs a good run of games.


Author: Oisin McQueirns

Oisin McQueirns is a digital journalist at Pundit Arena. Massive fan of Leeds United, Ric Flair and Trusting The Process. Contact him here

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