THE new year started well for a number of Irish players who might fancy their chances of breaking into Giovanni Trapattoni's plans in 2013.
In the Championship, Joe Mason scored the only goal as table-toppers Cardiff triumphed at Birmingham. The former U-21 international, who struck in last year's Carling Cup final against Liverpool, is on course for promotion with the in-form Bluebirds.
Another promising youngster, Derby's Jeff Hendrick, registered on the scoresheet in the Rams' 3-1 dismissal of Middlesbrough. Conor Sammon was also on target for Nigel Clough's men, with the ex-Wigan man settling into life at his new club after a slightly shaky start.
The former Blackburn and Preston winger hit the post in stoppage-time, and manager Sean Dyche was delighted with the former Belvedere player's performance against the club he appeared for on loan at the end of last season.
"It's good to see Keith enjoying his football," said Dyche, who was pleased to see the Clarets collect only their second win from their last eight games.
"He showed moments today and I think there's more to come. Whenever he gets a chance to play that real match fitness and sharpness will come. It's not a given – you've got to earn the right to play out there.
"He was a very young, really well-thought-of talent at Blackburn. He's had one or two snags along the way, but he has that moment of quality, that inner belief to deal with the ball on nearly every occasion. He's one who wants the ball all the time."
In League One, U-21 cap James Collins again demonstrated that he can be difficult to handle on a good day by scoring four times in Swindon's destruction of Portsmouth. Collins scored a hat-trick in his club's shock League Cup victory over Stoke earlier in the campaign.
A revitalised Paddy Madden reached double figures for the campaign by firing a brace in Yeovil's 3-0 win over Leyton Orient. Madden originally joined on loan from Carlisle and made such a big impression that Yeovil have signed him permanently.
The ex- Bohemians and Shelbourne striker will be joined there by Shels midfielder Kevin Dawson who has signed for the club after impressing in a trial period. "I'm over the moon," said the 22-year-old, whose brother Stephen plays for Championship outfit Barnsley.
On the non-goalscoring front, Enda Stevens was recalled to the Aston Villa side for their 2-2 draw at Swansea. Villa have again been linked with a move for Irish skipper Robbie Keane, who starred in a loan cameo last winter, but the Dubliner has stated he is unsure if anything will happen this time around.