Sunday 25 February 2018

Hoolahan shows Rovers rookie Byrne the way

Wes Hoolahan, who stole the limelight in Norwich City’s convincing win at Ewood Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Wes Hoolahan, who stole the limelight in Norwich City’s convincing win at Ewood Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile

John Fallon

Blackburn Rovers boss Owen Coyle described Jack Byrne's debut as outstanding but it was an older Irish midfielder, Wes Hoolahan, who stole the limelight in Norwich City's convincing win at Ewood Park.

Rovers were trailing by four goals when Byrne received the call from the bench and the 20-year-old showed enough nous and composure on his first game in English football to suggest Coyle will rely on him more as a starter during the campaign.

The Dubliner is spending the season in the Championship on loan from Manchester City, having impressed on his last temporary stint with SC Cambuur.

Byrne scored four times in 27 games during his spell in the Netherlands last season.

Confronting the hustle and bustle of the Championship represents a different challenge for the U-21 international, who promoted to train with Martin O'Neill's senior squad in the lead-up to the friendly against Switzerland in March. His opening cameo, though, bodes well for the season.

"Byrne, (Anthony) Stokes and (Gordon) Greer, the three subs, were probably our three best players on the day," admitted Coyle, also referencing the Ireland striker who scored Blackburn's consolation goal in the 4-1 defeat after coming on at the break.

Shane Duffy, who staked his claim to be a first team regular for Ireland at the Euros, had a day to forget in the home defence, while Darragh Lenihan also played the full 90 minutes.

For the Canaries, Hoolahan scored their second goal but fellow Irish international Robbie Brady wasn't involved due to injury. Everton and Leicester City remain interested in bringing Brady back to the Premier League but will attempt to haggle over the €23m asking price as the August 31 transfer window deadline looms.

Another Irish player in demand by top-flight suitors in this window, Jeff Hendrick, started the first game of Nigel Pearson's reign as Derby County manager. Cyrus Christie and Richard Keogh also played the full game against Brighton which ended in a disappointing scoreless draw at the iPro Stadium.

Although Pearson has said he expects Hendrick to spearhead Derby's promotion quest, interest in the midfielder intensifies. Burnley have seen three bids rejected, the latest being €10m, while fellow promoted outfit Middlesbrough are poised to make an offer and Sunderland are still monitoring the situation.

Elsewhere, there was a full debut for Ireland U-19 international Olamide Shodipo, who started QPR's 3-0 thumping of Leeds United yesterday.

The winger was born in Dublin but moved to London during his childhood and has shuttled through the ranks at the Rs, earning a new contract from boss Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink towards the end of last season. He is in line to make his Ireland U-21 debut against Serbia on September 6.

Callum O'Dowda, who made his senior debut against Belarus in May, produced a man-of-the-match performance on his first outing for new club Bristol City in their 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic.

Two other Irishmen to secure moves up the divisions in the summer, John Egan and Anthony Forde, also made their bows for Brentford and Rotherham United respectively.

Daryl Murphy wasn't amongst the goals in Ipswich Town's 4-2 victory over newcomers Barnsley but strike partner David McGoldrick, who narrowly missed out on a place in the Euros squad, notched a penalty.

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