Inspired by an article on how ignorance towards the League of Ireland when choosing players for Ireland’s international side is wrong, Rob Lyons explores the possibility of today’s crop of players making it into the current Irish international set up. Here are five players who could make the step up to international football.
1. Richie Towell – Dundalk
Known as much for his ability on the ball as his terrible haircuts, Towell is one of the league’s hottest attractions. The 23-year-old midfielder came to Ireland following spells in Scotland with Celtic and a loan period with Hibernian. When he was released from his parent club it wasn’t long before Towell joined up with Dundalk.
He was awarded numerous honours last season, including the ‘PFAI Young Player of the Year’ award for his performances, which saw Dundalk finish the 2013 season just three points behind eventual champions, St Pats. Towell has represented Ireland right up to under 21 level so he is no stranger to the international set up.
A grafter in midfield Towell is a player who works as hard as he has talent. His ability to win the ball in midfield and keep the ball well in tight spaces makes him most comparable to Wes Hoolahan out of the current Irish set up. A player with an eye for goal and good positional sense but he equally has the stamina to last a full 90 minutes working from box to box if needed.
2. Killian Brennan – St. Patricks Athletic
One of the many Brennan brothers dotted throughout the league he is arguably the most talented. Since leaving Ireland to join Peterborough United before returning to his native Ireland, Brennan has played for four different Irish clubs since returning to play for Dublin City in 2003.
The Drogheda born player has represented Ireland at underage level but his club record is where he impresses the most when you consider he won two leagues, one League Cup, one F.A.I. Cup and a Setanta Cup in his time with Bohemians alone. Last season saw him win yet another league winners’ medal with St. Pats.
Brennan, known for his trickery on the wing, would be most comparable to James McClean out of the current team. He also has a deadly left foot from set pieces. In combination with this Brennan has a wonderful footballing brain and his presence of mind on the ball is fantastic. Although at 30-years old it is unlikely we will ever see Brennan play for the boys in green.
3. Ronan Finn – Shamrock Rovers
The 26-year-old’s time may have come and gone in recent years for him to make the step up from League of Ireland level as well as becoming a player who would be in the thoughts of the Irish manager. Finn still has plenty of skill however and his age would be the only deterrent to an English side snatching him up.
Following Sporting Fingal’s demise, Finn was signed by The Hoops and that is where he has been ever since. His main attributes are passing and shooting, both of which make him stand out amongst the crowd. The Dubliner’s passing range is magnificent as is his decision making. Finn plays with his head up at all times and is a very tidy centre mid.
Comparisons can be drawn between Finn and Joe Gamble, formerly of Cork City who himself made it into the Irish international team while playing with City. Finn however has the extra dimension of being able to shoot and score from distance on a consistent basis. Finn may well earn a move to a bigger club but at 26, time is not on his side for a move away from Ireland to improve his chances of playing for Martin O’Neill’s side.
4. Christy Fagan – St. Patricks Athletic
With 18 goals so far this season in 27 appearances, Fagan has got to be a contender for Player of the Year in 2014. The striker’s composure in front of goal is outstanding as he proved again last Friday night when St. Pats came away with three points from against Dundalk; a solitary Fagan strike separating the sides.
Fagan has played international football before at under 21 level, and at the age of 25 still holds a possibility of someday being included in the Irish lineup. There is healthy competition in the Irish side at the moment up front but Fagan has proved he is a goalscoring threat whenever he is on the pitch.
Should the 25-year-old earn a move elsewhere he would have to be considered seriously for a place in the Ireland squad.
5. Danny Morrissey – Cork City
The 20-year-old is the wildcard from the five players that have been picked. Morrissey may not yet be known to the casual League of Ireland fan due to the small snippets of action he has received thus far at Cork City. However, the young City player has earned himself call ups to the Ireland under 21 set up in the past and finished last season’s League of Ireland campaign very strongly.
Injury has ruled him out for the majority of this season and he is only returning to full fitness at the moment. Morrissey has had to be content with appearances from the bench since he has returned but expect to see more of the Cork man in the league next season.
There you have it. Five League of Ireland players that could possibly break into the Republic of Ireland first team. Have we got it right?
Let us know who you would pick… contact us on our Facebook page or on Twitter @PunditArenaLOI
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena.
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