Monday 14 October 2019

Blades stars are a cut above in Irish review of Football League year

Sheffield United's David McGoldrick
Sheffield United's David McGoldrick
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The marathon English Football League season is well into the final mile with one more week of games and the drama of the play-offs remaining.

Irishmen have more than played their part and, as awards season takes hold, there's a number of individuals that have put themselves in the shake-up for the top gongs with their respective clubs.

While the outstanding Irish Premier League performers this year could arguably be counted on the fingers of one hand, picking an Irish XI from the three divisions below it is a bit more of a challenge.

Goalkeeper: Darren Randolph

A straightforward choice here as the Middlesbrough netminder was actually the only Irish player to make the PFA XI in the division.

His form has stayed consistent while his club have lost their way.

Right-Back: Joe Rafferty

Ireland are well stocked here in the Premier League, but it was hard to find an obvious contender below it.

Former U-21 cap Rafferty's consistent displays with Rochdale drove a January move to Preston and he's just broken into their side.

Centre-Half: Richard Keogh

He's a regular collector of the Player of the Year awards at Derby and is in the mix again this term.

Time is running out on his Premier League dream, though, with the play-offs beckoning again.

Centre-Half: John Egan

The son of the late Kerry hero plays in a back three for Sheffield United, but has to be included in any side.

The Corkman has played all but one of the Blades' games in their promotion year.

Left-Back: Enda Stevens

Operates as a wing-back with his club, but - similar to Egan - it's impossible to leave the Dubliner out. He's also shipped a few knocks and come back stronger.

Centre Midfield: Glenn Whelan

Granted, he didn't play too many games and his clubmate Conor Hourihane could just as easily be included, but Whelan's renaissance has coincided with an upturn in Villa's fortunes and his Irish recall was a fitting reward.

Centre Midfield: Alan Browne

The Preston player just needs to get his international career going now because he's flying with his club - 12 goals from midfield is impressive going.

Left Midfield: Ronan Curtis

The League of Ireland signing hit the ground running with Portsmouth and was named their Young Player of the Year after contributing heavily to their ongoing promotion push.

Right Midfield: Callum O'Dowda

The Bristol City player has matured into an elite Championship performer and he's been missed since getting injured in March.

Summer speculation on his future is certain.

Striker: David McGoldrick

An injury-free year since moving to Sheffield and a popular winner of their Player of the Season award - that says it all given the season they've had.

Striker: James Collins

The leading light for Luton in League One and he was named Player of the Year in the entire division. At 28, he's earned a crack at the Championship.

Unlucky To Miss Out

Sunderland's Aiden McGeady was edged by Collins for the League One gong, while injury halted Callum Robinson's Preston march.

Hourihane is in good form for Villa, while the standouts in League Two were Bury's attacking midfielder Jay O'Shea and on-loan Exeter defender Dara O'Shea, who is being tipped for big things once he returns to West Brom.

Irish Independent

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