Sunday 25 June 2017

are irish stars making grade?

As the big freeze delivers an unexpected break for the majority of clubs across the water, Daniel McDonnell delivers a half-term report for Ireland's Premier League players and analyses their respective situations with a number of them facing pressing January decisions

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

John O'Shea Manchester United

Starts: 13

Sub Appearances: 2

An injury-curtailed campaign for the Waterford man whose reputation has been enhanced by the manner in which the Manchester United defence has struggled in his absence. With Gary Neville no longer the force of old, and Rafael still very much a raw talent, the right-back place will belong to O'Shea when he returns.

Verdict: Solid campaign until misfortune struck.

Darron Gibson

Manchester United

Starts: 8

Sub Appearances: 3

Certainly has made a step forward this season, with two Carling Cup goals against Spurs and a Premier League strike against West Ham confirming definite potential. FA Cup elimination a setback but, nevertheless, has progressed into the first-team picture with established rivals stuttering.

Verdict: Bright future on the horizon.

Robbie Keane

Tottenham Hotspur

Starts: 17

Sub Appearances: 2

Fine displays in an Irish shirt in the autumn but, unfortunately, his most headline-grabbing Spurs exploits also related to a trip to Dublin -- an ill-advised Christmas party jaunt. Murmurs about his future at White Hart Lane are more than idle speculation.

Verdict: May need another change of scenery.

Stephen Ireland

Manchester City

Starts: 16

Sub Appearances: 5

Star shone brightly last term, yet it's been a different story this time around for the international exile who has struggled to reach the same heights amid the uncertainty at Eastlands. Lost his place towards the end of the Mark Hughes' tenure and now faces a task to prove himself to Roberto Mancini.

Verdict: Vital couple of months lie ahead.

Shay Given

Manchester City

Starts: 24

Sub Appearances: 0

For whatever reason, Given generally seems to end up at clubs that guarantee thrills and spills. In other words, they can't defend. With the error-prone and scandalously overpriced Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott as a shield, the Donegal native has been kept busy.

Verdict: Deserves better from those around him.

Richard Dunne

Aston Villa

Starts: 21 (2 with Man City)

Sub Appearances: 0

Mark Hughes received plenty of sympathy after his departure from Eastlands, yet he managed to stand over a summer of business which saw Dunne leaving the club for just over a quarter of the price that City shelled out for Lescott. Aston Villa have benefited, with the Dubliner thriving in his new environment

Verdict: An excellent campaign to date.

Keith Fahey

Birmingham

Starts: 8

Sub Appearances: 11

Difficult start to first Premier League campaign with death of his father understandably affecting the ex-St Pat's star. Generally on the bench since returning from short break in Dublin, yet Alex McLeish is rarely shy to introduce the stylish midfielder.

Verdict: Can make another step forward in 2010.

Lee Carsley

Birmingham

Starts: 5

Sub Appearances: 3

His days at St Andrews are numbered, taking a far more peripheral role in the squad with Barry Ferguson and Lee Bowyer preferred in the engine room. A host of Championship club are queuing up for his services, although he would prefer to stay in the Midlands for what is likely to be one, last move.

Verdict: Should seek new employment in January.

Stephen Carr

Birmingham

Starts: 21

Sub Appearances: 0

A rejuvenated character at St Andrews who has built on his promotion-winning cameo to enjoy an uninterrupted pre-season and claim the captain's armband for Birmingham's notable top-flight assault. Producing a level of performance which makes his early retirement seem all the more remarkable.

Verdict: Plenty more miles left on the clock.

Jay O'Shea

Birmingham

Starts: 2

Sub Appearances: 1

Dream elevation from lining out for Galway United to coming off the bench at Old Trafford in the space of a few weeks. A regular on the bench for his new club and has been restricted to cup outings since his whirlwind introduction to the English game.

Verdict: Loan move would aid his education.

Damien Duff

Fulham

Starts: 18

Sub Appearances: 5

It's a good thing Alan Shearer didn't get the Newcastle job, with Duff hinting he would have stayed at St James' Park if that was the case. Escaping the chaos is the best decision he has ever made, and, in the homely surrounds of Fulham, the Ballyboden native has regained his old sparkle.

Verdict: Making up for lost time back in London.

Stephen Kelly

Fulham

Starts: 11

Sub Appearances: 1

Essentially recruited to supplement Roy Hodgson's squad rather than become an integral member. Most of his action has come in the Europa League, with John Paintsil and Paul Konchesky the regular full-backs at Craven Cottage. Needs a run of games.

Verdict: Injury setback for Paintsil offers opportunity he must take.

Rory Delap

Stoke

Starts: 18

Sub Appearances: 1

The long throw remains a menace even though the novelty value of last term is lacking. There is more to Delap's game than that, though, and Tony Pulis has used the 33-year-old in both the centre of the park and right-midfield.

Verdict: An established presence at this level.

Liam Lawrence

Stoke

Starts: 11

Sub Appearances: 5

Something doesn't sit right about Lawrence's standing at the Britannia Stadium this term. His outstanding burst into the Irish starting XI was rewarded with the cold-shoulder treatment by Pulis, who only recently brought the right-winger back into starting considerations.

Verdict: Too much benchwarming -- any more and he will have to consider the situation.

Glenn Whelan

Stoke

Starts: 11

Sub Appearances: 7

Pulis likes to rotate his midfield options and Whelan, who suffered a few minor niggles, has lost out on occasions; yet, on balance, he seems to be a part of Pulis' favoured XI.

Verdict: Solid rather than spectacular at this level.

Andy Reid

Sunderland

Starts: 17

Sub Appearances: 2

Flew out of the blocks after an intensive pre-season with the fruits of his labour there for all to see with his waistline trimmed. Scoring goals as well as creating them, increasing the calls for an international return.

Verdict: Fine season, with Irish recall likely if right habits become the norm.

Daryl Murphy

Sunderland

Starts: 3

Sub Appearances: 3

Had options to leave in the summer; moves to Hull and Ipswich didn't materialise though. On a good contract at the Stadium of the Light, but accepts that a switch is necessary with Steve Bruce rating him down the pecking order. Expect some movement this month.

Verdict: He's gotta get out of that place.

David Meyler

Sunderland

Starts: 2

Sub Appearances: 0

The ex-Cork City star made his breakthrough in the Christmas victory over Blackburn and followed up with an FA Cup start against Barrow. An imposing central midfielder who is rated by Steve Bruce, he should expect further outings between now and season's end.

Verdict: The kid could be a contender.

Seamus Coleman

Everton

Starts: 3

Sub Appearances: 3

The ex-Sligo full back learned the hard way in Benfica with David Moyes prepping the Killybegs lad in the Europa League before circumstances granted him a Goodison Park debut as a sub against Spurs. Explosive display followed, although he's remained in the background subsequently.

Verdict: Moyes' patient approach should be for everyone's long-term gain.

Keith Andrews

Blackburn

Starts: 14

Sub Appearances: 7

The debacle in Paris affected Andrews, who sat out the few games following his return from that gut-wrenching exercise. A part of the furniture at Ewood Park now, the 29-year-old has proved that his elevation from League Two was about more than a strong relationship with Paul Ince.

Verdict: On the right track

Steven Reid

Blackburn

Starts: 4

Sub Appearances: 0

Restricted to cup outings at Blackburn, with a month's loan in QPR never really getting off the ground. Despite Sam Allardyce's truculent response to Giovanni Trapattoni's concerns, you must wonder if he will ever be the same after repeated knee issues.

Verdict: Change in fortune desperately required.

Chris McCann

Burnley

Starts: 6

Sub Appearances: 0

Dream start to Premier League campaign cruelly ended by freak injury which consigned Finglas lad to the sidelines. On the way back now but the departure of Owen Coyle, who was a huge fan, will come as a shock to McCann.

Verdict: An injury-free McCann can aid Burnley's cause.

Kevin Doyle

Wolves

Starts: 16

Sub Appearances: 1

Slow beginning to campaign with pre-season knocks taking toll. Club's record signing has gradually proved his worth with hard-working nature crucial to the style preferred by Mick McCarthy.

Verdict: All his displays have lacked is real cutting edge in front of goal.

Kevin Foley

Wolves

Starts: 8

Sub Appearances: 1

Frustrated by spending early months of season on treatment table. Bounced back in recent weeks to take starting role on the right side of midfield, and looks reasonably assured at Premier League level.

Verdict: Finding stride but would be better off at right-full.

Andy Keogh

Wolves

Starts: 8

Sub Appearances: 3

Hit the ground running in August and September with winning goal against Wigan the highlight of his Premier League introduction. A tad unlucky to lose place to Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and then incurred ankle ligament damage which will rule Dubliner out until February at the earliest.

Verdict: Can be encouraged by form before setback.

Stephen Ward

Wolves

Starts: 8

Sub Appearances: 1

The ex-Bohs man has undergone a remarkable transformation to become a left-back and, while a complicated knee procedure wrote off his September and October, he has looked comfortable upon his return -- save for a harsh sending off against Liverpool.

Verdict: Trapattoni will have to take notice.

James McCarthy

Wigan

Starts: 2

Sub Appearances: 1

Difference between SPL and Premier League emphasised by the time it has taken the 19-year-old to fully adjust. A start and a goal in FA Cup against Hull City was the most heartening Irish tale last weekend.

Verdict: A lot to learn but, remember, he's only 19.

Andy O'Brien

Bolton

Starts: 4

Sub Appearances: 0

Fell out of favour under Gary Megson and questionable if he will fit into the Owen Coyle era with changes afoot at the Reebok Stadium.

Verdict: Hanging on to top-flight status.

Stephen Hunt

Hull

Starts: 20

Sub Appearances: 0

Good to see Hunt back in the Premier League, and his energy has been crucial to Hull in their battle against the drop. However, they have cash worries and Wolves made a bid for the 28-year-old's services last week. The opportunity would interest the Irish international.

Verdict: Premier-class performer must choose a club that will definitely be there next season.

Kevin Kilbane

Hull

Starts: 7

Sub Appearances: 3

Approaching the end of his career and has been called upon in a variety of roles by Phil Brown in this campaign. Mostly confined to a substitutes role and there is speculation about a switch.

Verdict: Nothing to be gained from spectating role at the age of 32.

Paul McShane

Hull

Starts: 12

Sub Appearances: 2

Hit and miss -- is it ever any other way? -- from McShane. Has rotated between centre-half and right-full with varying degrees of success. Still, he came up with the idea for Jimmy Bullard's impression of Brown after scoring a penalty at Eastlands -- the scene of last year's infamous on-pitch team-talk.

Verdict: Relegation fight is inevitable.

Caleb Folan

Hull

Starts: 4

Sub Appearances: 0

Memorably tore into Brown after securing loan move to Middlesbrough, a big opportunity that went sour when his hamstring tore. Now sent to QPR and it's hard to see Folan figuring in Hull colours again.

Verdict: Championship fodder for now.

Steve Finnan

Portsmouth

Starts: 10

Sub Appearances: 0

No soft landing back to the UK, with question marks lingering over his well-being, as well as his pay cheque. Appears unable to avoid little knocks every couple of games.

Verdict: Relegation bound barring a dramatic change in circumstances.

Marc Wilson

Portsmouth

Starts: 16

Sub Appearances: 1

The Belfast lad has arguably benefited from the messy scenario at Fratton Park to gain vital first-team experience across the back four. Good news considering Ireland are short of defensive cover.

Verdict: Will take a lot from this season, whatever happens.

Irish Independent

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