The Premier League is about to return after its three-month hiatus and shutdown due to the COVID-19 crisis.
When Aston Villa take on Sheffield United in the opening game back, things will look much different to the way they were left in mid-March. Stadiums will be empty, while handshakes and group celebrations are, the immediate future, a thing of the past.
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The return of the Premier League will also see the introduction of five substitutes allowed in a game as opposed to the usual three, with nine players set to be named on the bench.
This is, of course, a measure put in place to help teams ease back into their busy schedules and prevent the risk of injury. But it may also represent a chance for some fringe players to see more minutes than they ordinarily would.
Here we take a look at five young Irish players who could benefit from this new rule change.
1) Troy Parrott – Tottenham
The perennial ’19th man’ for Tottenham this season, Irish striker Troy Parrott has been limited in his appearances on the bench and has only featured twice off it in the Premier League.
Tottenham will welcome back the likes of both Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son but despite adding Steven Bergwijn in January they are still decidedly light in the centre-forward ranks, meaning with added places on the bench, Parrott should be in the squad more frequently.
He will, of course, miss the beginning of the restart following appendix surgery. But when he does return, it is likely we see him on the bench and perhaps even on the pitch, a little more often.
Mourinho has insisted at times he isn’t ready for first-team action, but conversely did hand the 18-year-old his Premier League debut against Burnley. And with less pressure to play him in Kane’s absence, the Spurs manager might be more inclined to hand Parrott minutes.
2) Conor Ronan – Wolves
It was disappointing for Conor Ronan to see the League One season ended – he had just been beginning to find his groove on loan at Blackpool.
Back now at parent club Wolves, however, it may mean that Ronan gets an opportunity in the last nine games of the season to stake a claim at a spot in the first-team squad.
The 22-year-old has impressed in his last two loan moves, in Slovakia and at the aforementioned Blackpool, while he has been a key piece in Stephen Kenny’s Ireland Under-21 side over the last 18 months.
Wolves are challenging for a European spot and have a strong squad, however, Nuno Espirito Santo has handed youngsters spots on the bench in the past, and he may see Ronan as a different and more experienced option in the remainder of the season.
3) Adam Idah – Norwich
Like Parrott, Adam Idah has been in and out of the first-team squad at his club this season. However, the Norwich striker is slightly more likely to see minutes off the bench than his Under-21 compatriot.
The 19-year-old was on the bench for Norwich’s last three games, featuring late against Sheffield United, and with nine players now available to be selected, expect him to be an option for the remainder of the season.
Idah, of course, started against Manchester United earlier this season and grabbed a brilliant hat-trick against Preston in the FA Cup, which caught the eye of many.
He had been battling it out with Josip Drmic as back-up to Teemu Pukki, but it’s likely that both will now be able to make the squad and hopefully see more minutes.
His goal in a training game last week also suggests the 19-year-old is sharp and ready to go.
4) Gavin Kilkenny – Bournemouth
On the fringes of the Bournemouth first-team squad, Gavin Kilkenny is yet to make his Premier League debut but featured on the bench against the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea.
The 20-year-old signed a new contract extension at the club in December, after impressing in pre-season and with the Cherries’ underage side. Eddie Howe has predicted a big future for the former St Kevin’s Boys midfielder.
Kilkenny is talented in possession with the ability to make things happen on the pitch and could see himself back on the bench for Bournemouth’s remaining Premier League games.
“It’s a massive moment for him because I think it’s further evidence that we believe in him, we like him,” Howe told the Bournemouth Daily Echo in February.
“It’s a confidence boost. He will feel like he belongs a little bit more in and around the players he is training and playing with.”
5) Tyriek Wright – Aston Villa
The Irish U19 international is one of the lesser-known players on this list but the winger could see himself handed an unexpected opportunity at Villa Park.
Wright has been one of a number of academy players who have been training with the Aston Villa first team as they prepare for the Premier League return this week.
Dean Smith’s side have a relatively small squad, meaning they have integrated some youth into their side during the break, with Wright a potential player who could benefit.
The 18-year-old has managed five goals in nine goals at U19 level for Ireland and could be a name to watch out for throughout the last nine games of the season.