Miguel Delaney: Four key Irish players who would benefit from a January transfer
A January move would benefit some more than others in the Ireland international squad
Back at the start of this qualification campaign, as Ireland prepared for the first positive result away to Serbia, the already-lively mood around the squad was lifted by the arrival of one player. Jeff Hendrick had been in Burnley to complete his medical ahead of a move there from Derby County, thereby continuing one of the most encouraging trends around the Irish team in 2016.
A fair few key players got either regular football in the Premier League, or progressive moves. A high proportion of the main squad are now in positive situations in their club football, furthering the sense that the side is in a good place right now.
Almost appropriately closing all that, James McClean signed off a fine individual year by signing a new contract at West Brom.
There are still a few players who could have their situations improved, though, and could do with a move.
That is why the start of a new year - and the opening of a new window today - offers that opportunity. So, who could most do with a move over the next 30 days?
Robbie Brady (Norwich City)
If there still remains some argument over whether Brady is now Martin O'Neill's most important player, that in itself means there is utterly no argument that he needs a move as soon as possible. Some around the Irish squad remain astonished he didn't get one in the summer, especially with clubs like Leicester City monitoring him. He is just too good a player, and - set to turn 25 in just two weeks - at too key an age to be spending potentially prime years in the Championship.
Brady needs to be pushing that talent, those supreme deliveries, at ever higher levels to see how high he can go; to really test his limits to get the best out of himself. One fear expressed by those close to the Irish squad, however, is that Norwich have set too high a price. That is seen as one reason why he didn't get a move in the summer, and one reason why some Premier League clubs have been a little reticent about coming back in.
Aston Villa have been monitoring Brady, as have Newcastle United, and both have the funds and plans to get back in the top division soon. It just feels like he needs to get back there sooner.
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
As one of the senior figures in one of the highest-placed sides featuring an Irish player, Coleman probably has a club status above anyone in O'Neill's squad. That, however, also means he could have the chance to enhance it; to go even higher.
It is known that Jose Mourinho wants a right-back and that Manchester United have looked at Coleman. It also seems close to certain he could thrive at that kind of Champions League-challenging level, where there hasn't been an Irish Premier League player since John O'Shea left Old Trafford. A January move could restore that kind of pedigree to the squad. Coleman doesn't need a move. At the age of 28, his final development as a player might, however.
James McCarthy (Everton)
This has been a difficult spell for McCarthy, and a lot of that has been for reasons outside his control, given the controversial public bickering between his two managers, Ronald Koeman and O'Neill.
That, however, only fosters the growing sense that - at 26 years of age - his career is stalling a bit. Even allowing for injury, he has only played seven games for Everton so far and has been in and out of the team. O'Neill summed it up with another pointed comment a few weeks ago, saying: "It's probably the first time in his professional career that James' position has been under threat at first-team level. So if it is, fight like mad."
It's more of a pity because that has come in a spell when he has shown commendable fighting spirit for Ireland. McCarthy responded to the criticism of his display in the 3-0 Euro 2016 defeat to Belgium with two of his finest performances for Ireland, against Italy and France, and kept it up in the early World Cup qualifiers so far. He just needs regular football to kick on.
McCarthy needs to be the main man in midfield, although that in itself will require more consistent performances. Whether they would be of the same value with Celtic in a lop-sided Scottish league is also open to question. It's only a year since McCarthy was being talked up as a potential signing for Tottenham Hotspur. He needs to at least get back to that level of play.
David Meyler (Hull City)
The 27-year-old has been one of the few bright spots in an utterly dismal and desperate season for Hull City, and that's kind of the point with his own future.
No matter how well Meyler plays, he's unlikely to be able to help the club avoid a near-certain relegation. It would be a shame to see him immediately drop down, then, just as he is looking resurgent in the Premier League. There's a feeling we're finally beginning to see the battling player who was talked up so much before he suffered those unfortunate injuries when young, a player who would suit a number of clubs from Burnley to Crystal Palace.
It has also come across for Ireland, not least in the break and run that fed Wes Hoolahan for the side's landmark goal against Austria. Meyler may need another break himself.
Sunday Indo Sport