With the sheer amount of Irish players at Burnley and Preston, it was only a matter of time before a friendly was organised between the two sides.
Though it may be sheer coincidence that these two teams are facing each other at Deepdale on Tuesday night, it will not have gone unnoticed that there is a significant Irish element to this match with as many as 12 Boys in Green set to feature.
Indeed, Preston’s Irish contingent grew by two on Monday as striker Sean Maguire and defender Kevin O’Connor officially joined from Cork City. Preston have hinted that the pair will play some part in the pre-season friendly – and fitness shouldn’t be a concern given the fact that they have been playing with City throughout the summer – and while they are unlikely to start, they could get their chance to impress from the bench.
— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) July 25, 2017
Two other recent League of Ireland graduates that have much more of a chance of starting are Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan. The former Dundalk duo have slotted in well to the Championship side since joining midway through last season, and will be the example for Maguire and O’Connor to follow this season.
Alan Browne, another ex-Cork City man, has a good chance of playing in midfield. The newly-capped Irish international made 21 Championship starts at Deepdale last season and will be looking to establish himself in the midfield under new manager Alex Neil. So too will Greg Cunningham, as the former Mervue United left-back now looks to be in direct competition with O’Connor for a place in the starting lineup.
Ex-Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers striker Eoin Doyle could also feature. Although he may yet be moved on before the league season starts, he has remained part of the first team squad and featured in the friendly against Newcastle at the weekend.
While Preston have greater Irish numbers, Burnley have the more established internationals. Forward Jon Walters joined the ranks in a £3m deal from Stoke City, and is in line to play some part (probably from the start).
Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady, both of whom broke Burnley’s transfer record when they completed their respective deals in the last two transfer windows, will be looking to kick on and perform better this season after relatively indifferent campaigns last year – while former Bohemians man Stephen Ward now has competition for the left-back spot in the form of Charlie Taylor so it could be a big year for him too.
Rounding out the Irish contingent on show is ex-Cork City centre-back Kevin Long, who ended last season by making his first Premier Leauge start and making his Ireland debut.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish Football podcast, we caught up with Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor ahead of their move to Preston, and review the League of Ireland clubs’ European campaigns.