Irish players shone brightest in the first round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Eleven different Irish players scored goals in this week’s EFL Cup first round to start their seasons in ideal fashion.
Championship, League One and League Two sides competed against one another across Tuesday and Wednesday evening and plenty of Irish saw gametime as some clubs chopped and changed their line-ups and others stuck with their frontline elevens.
The busiest of the contests came on Tuesday as a rotated Blackburn team took on Walsall at Ewood Park. Debuting for Blackburn was 20-year-old winger Zak Gilsenan who took his chance with both hands by scoring one and assisting another in their 4-3 win. Gilsenan missed out on lots of football for club and country over the last couple of seasons but by registering two goal contributions he finally got to express the talent that both Barcelona and Liverpool saw in him back in his academy days.
🎙️ "𝙄𝙩'𝙨 𝙖 𝙙𝙚𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙜𝙤𝙖𝙡 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙕𝙖𝙠 𝙂𝙞𝙡𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙖𝙣 – 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖 𝙢𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙜𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙧!"
— Blackburn Rovers (@Rovers) August 9, 2023
Irish players impress in the EFL Cup first round.
Walsall made it far from straightforward for Rovers by proving dangerous on the counter-attack, however. Former Ireland under-21 defender Oisin McEntee scored the opener from a Ross Tierney corner and Tierney scored his first goal for the club since joining on loan from Motherwell shortly after. The League Two side’s third strike of the game came in the closing stages as Ireland under-19 midfielder Ronan Maher sprung off the bench to notch a consolation.
✅ Saddlers debut
⚽️ First goal
— Walsall FC Official (@WFCOfficial) August 8, 2023
Lincoln City were also stacked with Irish starters on Tuesday as Danny Mandroiu, Paudie O’Connor and goalscorer Sean Roughan all combined for the Imps’ opener against Notts County. A corner from former Shamrock Rovers midfielder Mandroiu was flicked on by club captain O’Connor and Ireland under-21 left-back Roughan was on hand to knock it home. Roughan attracted plenty of interest over the summer but Lincoln were delighted to eventually tie him down to a new deal – and if you watched the game on Tuesday you would fully understand why.
— Lincoln City FC 🇺🇦 (@LincolnCity_FC) August 9, 2023
Fleetwood are another team with a healthy Irish influence. They started with two Irish players against Port Vale on Tuesday and both of them scored. Cian Hayes – a nippy Ireland under-21 winger – scored their first just five minutes in and Ryan Graydon – their new winger from Derry City – scored four minutes into the second half to make a positive impression on his new teammates.
— Fleetwood Town FC (@ftfc) August 9, 2023
Just how Fleetwood lined out with two Irish wingers, Rotherham United lined out against Morecambe with two Irish strikers. The imposing pair of Georgie Kelly and Joshua Kayode both started up top and the latter scored the Millers’ only goal of the game. The 23-year-old endured horrible luck with injuries last season while out loan with MK Dons but will hope Tuesday’s performance is a sign of things to come. Like his strike partner Kelly, Kayode is physically imposing and – as he showed in his Ireland under-21 days – a really awkward targetman for centre-halves to contend with.
GOAL! Joshua Kayode (ST, 23) finds the net for Rotherham against Morecambe 🇮🇪⚽️🔥
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) August 8, 2023
A more experienced striker by the name of Paddy Madden looked to be Stockport’s cup hero as his 16th minute finish looked enough to knock out Sheffield Wednesday right up until the 97th minute. Cruelly for the League Two minnows, Tyreeq Bakinson struck deep into injury team and Wednesday went on to win 4-1 on penalties.
Taylor and Knight impress for their next clubs.
Moving onto Wednesday when 25-year-old Ireland squad member Jack Taylor made the maximum of his first start for Ipswich Town. Freshly signed from Peterborough United, Taylor started in midfield against Bristol Rovers and scored one of their two goals in a 2-0 victory. It took the former Ireland under-21 all of twelve minutes to score his first goal for the Tractor Boys; potentially forcing his way into Kieran McKenna’s plans for this weekend’s Championship meeting with Stoke City by doing so.
Omari Hutchinson with a lovely dummy to allow Jack Taylor to put Ipswich 1-0 up against Bristol 🤝🏽 pic.twitter.com/StA182IEkv
— Chelsea Loan Army (@ChelseaIoanArmy) August 9, 2023
The finest Irish performance of the weekend came at Ashton Gate as Jason Knight made himself a Bristol City fan favourite on just his second appearance. Renowned for his tireless work-ethic out of possession, it seems the Dubliner has now sharpened his offensive weaponry as he scored two and assisted another in the Robins’ 5-1 drubbing of Oxford United. Knight was frequently utilised as a right-back and right wing-back for his previous club Derby County but now positioned as an attacking midfielder with a license to get into the box, this season could turn out to be the one that reveals the 22-year-old’s full potential.
Jason Knight in top form for Bristol City yesterday with two goals and one assist!
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) August 9, 2023
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