Kenny’s Kids: Twenty new names to watch in 2022

Kenny’s Kids: 20 New Names To Watch.

To celebrate hitting 20,000 Twitter Followers on Kenny’s Kids, I decided to have a look at twenty top Irish prospects who could make a name for themselves in 2022.

Criteria: Every player on this list is uncapped at Ireland senior level and Ireland under-21 level.

Tayo Adaramola

Crystal Palace know how to produce top talent and Ireland under-19 fullback Tayo Adaramola looks next in line to make his first-team bow at Selhurst Park. The 18-year-old flyer grew up in Dublin and played for St Mochta’s and St Kevin’s before joining the London club in 2014.

Adaramola possesses unique athleticism and his willingness to drive upfield has helped him to one assist and one goal in seven Premier League 2 appearances this season. The emergence of Taylor Gardner Hickman (20), Festy Ebosele (19), Sean Roughan (18) and now Adaramola is great news for Ireland’s wing-back situation moving forward. 

Andrew Moran 

Ireland are probably still short of a creative midfielder who can penetrate stubborn defences. The home matches against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg were frustrating occasions and although the introduction of Jamie McGrath towards the end of the campaign added some guile to Ireland’s arsenal, one or two more “Hoolahan types” wouldn’t go astray.

Brighton teenager Andrew Moran is a couple of years away from international honours but he fits that bill to perfection. Small in stature but technically accomplished and full of imagination, the former St Joseph’s and Bray Wanderers man has a bright future ahead of him. 

Johnny Kenny 

Sligo’s Johnny Kenny has been strongly linked with a move to Scotland after a break-out season in the League of Ireland. The 18-year-old striker scored eleven times in 2021 for Liam Buckley’s men and carried that form into the Ireland under-19s fold.

Kenny found the back of the net in each of his last three Ireland games and appears to be following in the footsteps of Parrott, Idah and Ferguson with his goal-getting nous. Celtic? Hibs? Sligo? No matter where he ends up, Johnny Kenny will be a player to track in 2022. 

Kevin Zefi 

Ireland underage sensation Kevin Zefi is loving life at Inter Milan after signing from Shamrock Rovers last Summer. Zefi is still only 16 years of age and his development needs to be carefully managed, but it’s easy to understand why the Serie A giants were so determined to complete a deal.

Technically accomplished, quick-footed, lethal in possession –  players like Zefi don’t come out of Ireland all too often. Potential is only potential, he will have to work tirelessly to make the grade at the San Siro, but he has the raw materials to do just that. 

James Abankwah

17-year-old Abankwah came on in the FAI Cup Final for St Pat’s and looked like a seasoned pro. A crisp passer of the ball and the picture of calm in defence, stylistically the centre-back is not dissimilar to Andrew Omobamidele and could go onto similar things if he continues to progress at this rate.

Abankwah played 14 times for St Pat’s last season and should be a regular starter in 2022 until he inevitably secures a move across the water. A star in the making. 

Jamie Mullins

Another 17-year-old, attacking midfielder Jamie Mullins burst onto the scene for Bohemians in 2021 with a stunning goal on his full debut against Longford Town. The Ireland under-18 international is confident on the ball and the threat he poses to defences has excited both supporters and teammates ahead of the new season.

The St Kevin’s product will get plenty of game-time with Ross Tierney now on the books of Motherwell. The other good news for Bohs fans is that he is unable to depart for the UK mid-way through the season as he doesn’t turn eighteen until next October. A marvellous attacking talent who could do big things in the game.

Sean Roughan 

Good things are expected of Lincoln City left-back Sean Roughan and his Ireland under-19 displays have shown why. Chelsea and Southampton took the teenager on trial last season and a Premier League move is still a possibility for the 18-year-old.

Sean’s confidence on the ball is striking but his athleticism and intelligence are also key components to his game. Like Enda Stevens for the senior team, Roughan is unafraid to make himself a threat in the opposition box and the Swords native scored a lovely goal for the Ireland 19s against Bulgaria back in November.

Rocco Vata 

The Ireland under-17s have an array of dangerous midfielders/attackers and Celtic’s Rocco Vata is certainly one of them. The son of Albanian stalwart Rudi Vata, Rocco comes from good stock and plays like a kid who’s had a ball at his feet since he could walk.

The attacking midfielder has represented the Boys in Green at U15, 17 and U18 level and has scored on three occasions. He’s equally impressive for Celtic B for whom he’s been a key player since he turned fifteen.

Ben McCormack 

Tipped for a big season in the League of Ireland this year is St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Ben McCormack. Although hampered by injuries in 2021, the 18-year-old has already togged out 28 times for the Inchicore club.

McCormack’s hard work and dedication has earned the respect of older teammates, but it’s his energy levels and passing prowess that will propel the Dubliner to new heights in the coming seasons. Impressing for Tom Mohan’s Ireland under-19s will also be high on his priority list this year.

James Furlong

It’s a surprise that Brighton under-23s left-back James Furlong is yet to feature for the Ireland under-21s. The former Shamrock Rovers man is a constant in Premier League 2 where his pin-point crossing and set-piece expertise have helped the Seagulls to some impressive victories over the last twelve months.

He also played with the Brighton first team in pre-season, getting 45 minutes under his belt against Rangers at Ibrox. Fullback wasn’t the strongest area for Jim Crawford’s 21s in 2021 so hopefully, this is the year Furlong gets his big chance.

Cathal Heffernan 

The son of two Olympians, Cathal Heffernan is already writing his own story in the sporting world. The Ireland under-17s captain made his debut for Cork City and went on trial with the likes of Roma, AC Milan, Atalanta and Juventus in 2021.

The centre-back is still very young but those in the know think he could be Ireland’s next great defender, provided he keeps his head down. Athleticism won’t be a stumbling block, that much is for sure. 

.John Joe Patrick Finn 

The curious case of John Joe Patrick Finn, or ‘John Patrick’ as he is also known, rolls on into 2022. The 6’4 attacker made eight appearances for Getafe last season, the first of which made him the youngest debutant in the club’s history.

Born in Madrid to a Mayo father, John Patrick has played for the Ireland under-19s on two occasions but is yet to make the step up to the 21s. It is understood that school exams were the main reason why he was unavailable for selection last year but it will be fascinating to see how he does for Jim Crawford’s team if he’s involved in 2022.

Jack Henry Francis 

English-born Jack Henry Francis has trained with Mikel Arteta’s first team this season and is proving an important midfielder in their underage ranks. The 18-year-old’s polished technique has caught the eye with his range of passing considered to be his strongest attribute by Arsenal journalists.

Another highly-touted midfielder born in England is Leeds’s Cian Coleman who was included in the Guardian’s ‘Next Generation’ list back in October. 

Mark O’Mahony 

Marksman O’Mahony. The 16-year-old Cork City striker scored seven international goals in seven games in 2021 (four for the Ireland U17s and three for the Ireland U18s).

O’Mahony is also likely to make an impact in the League of Ireland First Division in 2022. Cork look ready to call on their excellent academy talent to aid their promotion charge next season and the teenager could be their difference-maker.

Harry Vaughan

Harry Vaughan might only be seventeen but he is already an important creative midfielder for Oldham Athletic. The Ireland under-19 star has played nineteen club games this season and is attracting interest from Burnley and Everton.

Although eligible for Ireland and England, Vaughan has only ever represented the Boys in Green so fingers crossed it stays that way. Standing at 5’5 he is what they call a “proper number ten”. 

Alex Murphy

They’re excited about young Alex Murphy in Galway and for good reason. The 17-year-old defender played twelve times last season to help John Caulfield’s side into the First Division play-offs.

He also won two caps for the Ireland under-18s and even got called up to the 21s when they hit a Covid crisis in the latter stages of the year. Comfortable at both left-back and centre-back, Murphy is being tracked by the likes of Shamrock Rovers and once he hits eighteen that list will only grow.

Jusin Ferizaj 

Another Ireland under-17 dangerman with Albanian blood. Justin Ferizaj is on the books of Shamrock Rovers where his laser vision and deadly shooting could be useful assets off the bench in 2022.

The 16-year-old midfielder has played for Ireland at under-15, under-16 and under-18 levels and it’s anticipated that he will be fast-tracked to the 19s before long. His free-kick against Poland at Turner’s Cross will go down as his highlight of 2021. 

Caden McLoughlin 

Villarreal winger Caden McLoughlin scored five goals in nine games for the Ireland under-15s before progressing to the 17s where he is now involved under Colin O’Brien.

Formerly of Malaga, the teenager switched to Villareal in 2020 and signed his first pro deal for the La Liga club last April. McLoughlin qualifies for the Republic of Ireland through his Finglas mother. 

Sam Curtis 

Sam Curtis and his brother Ben Curtis are two top prospects to watch out for in this year’s League of Ireland. 16-year-old Sam signed for St Pat’s from Shamrock Rovers in 2020 and played for the Saints in the UEFA Youth League last season.

Despite his age, Sam has already played twice for the Ireland under-19s and even scored a goal against Bulgaria. 17-year-old Ben Curtis is also plying his trade at Richmond Park and could feature in defence at some point next season. 

Aidomo Emakhu 

18-year-old Aidomo Emakhu introduced himself to Irish football fans with a ninetieth-minute winner for Shamrock Rovers in their 1-0 UEFA Conference League victory over Teuta.

The Ireland under-19 international went on to make a further thirteen appearances for the Tallaght giants, proving a handful off the bench on more than one occasion. With lightning pace, an admirable work ethic and an eye for goal, Emakhu will definitely be one to follow in the next year or so. 

For extensive coverage of Ireland’s top prospects follow Kenny’s Kids on Twitter. 

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