Pundit Arena takes a look at a starting XI of the best Irish academy prospects at Premier League clubs
GK: Caoimhin Kelleher – Liverpool
A young goalkeeper who has been making all the right moves at Anfield, Caoimhin Kelleher made his Liverpool first-team debut in pre-season and trained with the Irish senior team for their last set of internationals.
Kelleher is confident on the ball and a talented shot-stopper, with current Irish number one Darren Randolph calling the 19-year old “ridiculously talented” following his introduction to the Irish first team.
Still behind Alisson and Mignolet in the pecking order at Anfield, but developing into a real talent and whether it will be a loan move or the odd cup game, he will likely get his chance at first-team football very soon.
RB: Lee O’Connor -Manchester United
O’Connor is a player who has become familiar with many fans thanks to, not only his tremendous displays with the Irish U19s, who he captained to the to the elite round of the European Championship Qualifiers but also his recent call-up to the senior squad.
The Manchester United man is versatile and can play anywhere across the back four although will likely find his position as an attacking full-back due to his speed and ability going forward.
A key part of Manchester United’s underage sides in both the UEFA Youth League and the Premier League 2 it’s likely that we’ll see the 18-year-old again involved with the Irish first team squad sooner rather than later.
CB: Conor Masterson – Liverpool
Another at Liverpool, Conor Masterson is a player who has been on the brink of Klopp’s first team for a number of years now and even featured on the bench for their crucial Champions League semi-final against Manchester City last season.
Masterson is everything you’d want in a modern defender. He is a commanding centre-half whose height makes him a strong presence at the heart of the defence and understandably adds to his ability in the air.
Also proficient on the ground, Masterson is well able to get the ball down and play as well as having a knack of picking out his teammates with long diagonal balls from the heart of the defence. A real talent to watch out for.
CB: James Clarke – Burnley
The Clarets’ scholar of the year last season, 18-year-old James Clarke has an incredibly bright future ahead of him at Turf Moor.
Clarke was heavily involved in the U18s and U23s at Burnley last season and capped off an incredible campaign by earning a call-up to Tom Mohan’s Irish u19s squad.
He also penned his first professional contract at the club as he edges ever closer to the Burnley first team.
LB: Tyreke Wilson – Manchester City
A highly touted academy prospect at Manchester City, Tyreke Wilson isn’t a name that many Irish fans will likely be aware of, but he is a man making waves at the Etihad.
Just 18 years of age, the former Cherry Orchard man is a promising left-back, a position that Ireland have struggled with in recent years and was involved in the Manchester City first team squad in pre-season.
LM: Shane Flynn – Leicester
Predominantly a winger but on the left side of our midfield three, Leicester City’s Shane Flynn has taken to the King Power like a duck to water following his move from Bray Wanderers.
Touted as one of the Premier League’s best academy prospect by the Guardian a number of months ago, Flynn could be a player to keep tabs on over the next couple of seasons.
The Irish underage international has an excellent ability from set pieces and according to Stuart James in the Guardian is seen by Leicester as a player who can be developed to play anywhere across their front three.
CM: Conor Coventry – West Ham
A superb prospect at a club known for giving young players an opportunity, West Ham’s Conor Coventry has been developing excellently under the radar in London.
A frequent part of the Hammers’ U23s side in the Premier League 2, Coventry has trained with the first team at the Olympic stadium and has been excellent for the much-lauded Irish U19s side.
Coventry’s style of play resembles that of Declan Rice’s with the 18-year old able to play anywhere in the middle of the park.
RM: Kian Flanagan – Crystal Palace
An attacking midfielder by trade, Kian Flanagan is a player who has been highly rated at Selhurst Park for quite a number of years now.
An Irish U17s and U19s international Flanagan was born in England, but it is not yet known whether any representatives have been in contact with the 19-year old.
A tricky midfielder and an integral part of Palace’s U23s squad last year, playing 25 times and scoring twice, Flanagan will surely be hoping his first-team opportunity comes soon.
ST: Michael Obafemi – Southampton
The most developed player in terms of experience in our starting XI, Michael Obafemi had a tremendous end to 2018 as he looks to continue to develop and establish himself with Ireland and Southampton in 2019.
An international debut, a first Premier League start and a first Premier League goal all before his 19th birthday, Obafemi looks like a prospect who could seriously live up to the hype that is surrounding him.
Still a raw talent, but full of pace and constantly improving in front of goal, Michael Obafemi could be a fixture of Ireland and Southampton’s strike force for years to come.
ST: Troy Parrott – Tottenham
Still only 16 years of age, Troy Parrott has garnered serious attention over the past few months following his impressive performances for the Tottenham underage sides.
Nine goals in six games for the U18s in the Premier League and a handful of impressive UEFA Youth League displays has Parrott edging closer and closer to an opportunity at White Hart Lane, or so his travelling with the first team in December and his number 71 squad number seems to suggest.
A clinical and exciting young striker, Parrott could be in for a huge 2019.
ST: Aaron Connolly – Brighton
It’s a mystery how 18-year old Galway native Aaron Connolly hasn’t been given more of an opportunity with the first-team at Brighton this season.
17 goals for their U23s side in the Premier League 2 and a November player of the month award, Connolly has been one of the most impressive underage performers of any nationality in England this season.
Linked with a move away from the Amex which could benefit the striker in gaining first-team experience, if Connolly continues to score and perform at the level he is at, then he will find himself very close to Mick McCarthy’s side.