The uncapped Irish players to watch out for in the Championship this season

The uncapped Irish players to watch out for in the Championship this season

The EFL Championship gets back into full swing today and there is plenty of Irish interest.

The Championship returned last night with a gripping contest between Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday.

For Irish fans it was particularly interesting as lining up on the Southampton side were Gavin Bazunu, Ryan Manning and Will Smallbone.

Southampton are expected to go straight back up to the Premier League and based on last night’s 2-1 win over the Owls, they certainly have a decent chance.

While Bazunu had a relatively quiet evening, Manning and Smallbone were right in the heat of the battle and emerged as the game’s top performers by showcasing their technical talents at Hillsborough.

Manning occupied his usual left wing-back position in what was his first game for the Saints after joining from Swansea, while Smallbone played in a deeper than usual midfield slot where he calmly orchestrated play.

It was a pretty positive beginning to life for the Irish lads and the hope is that the weekend will continue in that vein. We know all about Jayson Molumby, Jayson Knight, Adam Idah (and others) but the focus here is on the Irish lads who could convince Stephen Kenny that they are worthy of a first Ireland cap.

So without further adieu…

Uncapped Irish players to track in the Championship this season

Luke McNally (Stoke City – on loan from Burnley)

Well worth keeping tabs on this season is 23-year-old centre-back Luke McNally. McNally arrived at Stoke City this summer on loan from Burnley and it widely understood that a whole host of Championship clubs were chasing his signature.

That comes as no surprise. The Meath man spent the second half of last season at Coventry City and his performances went hand-in-hand with the Sky Blues powering up the league table and all the way to the play-off final.

McNally is a physical presence in both boxes, he is agile and most of all he is supremely confident on the ball. Not dissimilar to Harry Maguire in his Leicester City days or our own Nathan Collins, he has a tendency to dribble far up the pitch and has the skill to break opposition presses by skipping past attackers.

Harry Vaughan (Hull City) 

Young Harry Vaughan won the Hull City Player of the Month award for April and continued to shine in pre-season. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder enjoys operating off the left and creating chances with his delicate passing and evasive movement.

Small in stature but blessed with huge creativity, the Ireland under-21 international quickly became a fan favourite of Tigers fans and he hopes to push on this season after a remarkable breakthrough debut campaign.

A 2022/2023 season that started with him as a bit-part player for Oldham Athletic in the National League was transformed when he joined the Hull City in January. If he made half as many strides this season you would have to think he would be on the fringes of the Irish squad.

Finn Azaz (Plymouth Argyle – on loan from Aston Villa)

Returning to Plymouth on loan this season is 22-year-old attacking midfielder Finn Azaz – but there’s a difference. This time Plymouth are playing their football in the Championship – the same level as much of the Republic of Ireland senior squad.

Azaz was nominated for the League One Player of the Season prize after a remarkable showing for Argyle which saw him score eight goals and provide nine assists in 34 appearances. It wasn’t enough to enter the Ireland conversation because the likes of Will Smallbone were performing in a stronger league at the time, but this season will be interesting as Azaz can be judged in the same context as many of his Irish peers.

Like Vaughan, his invention in possession of the football is what differentiates from most of the options at Stephen Kenny’s disposal so another impressive campaign could put his name in the ring for selection.


You can track these three players and almost every other Irish player across the season using our Weekend Radar hub or by simply following the Kenny’s Kids Twitter account.

Other Irish players playing in the Championship this season who might be of special interest are Mark Travers (who has signed for Stoke on loan from Bournemouth), Aaron Connolly (who has landed a one-year deal with Hull City) and the Irish contingent at Norwich City which includes their new signing Shane Duffy.