Hourihane and Kelly make their mark to send O'Neill a hint
Barnsley's Conor Hourihane and Reading's Liam Kelly were the Irish stars in the Championship yesterday as the talented attacking midfielders continued a season of progression.
Hourihane scored a stunning late winner for Barnsley at Nottingham Forest to give Martin O'Neill further food for thought.
The Corkman has scored five times this season and impressed in general play, although an invitation into Irish provisional squads failed to lead to a full call, with O'Neill suggesting that the 25-year-old still had a bit more to do. He was also below par when the Irish management team turned up to watch him.
Roy Keane knows Hourihane well, having worked with him at Sunderland and Ipswich. The player has matured considerably since then and has been the subject of transfer speculation.
Kelly is a new name on the scene, having broken through at Reading this term under Jaap Stam, and the diminutive 21-year-old registered his first goal for the club as their promotion charge gathered steam with a comeback from two down to win 3-2 at Bristol City.
Irish international Callum O'Dowda won the penalty that appeared to have put the hosts in control of the three points but Kelly halved the deficit and then created the equaliser for Yann Kermorgant, who then fired home an injury-time winner.
Reading are now third in the table, eight points off Chris Hughton's Brighton. They also came from behind to triumph at Fulham and that was enough to move them two clear of Newcastle after the promotion favourites suffered a shock defeat away to struggling Blackburn.
Charlie Mulgrew's free-kick got the job done to take some of the pressure off Rovers boss Owen Coyle. Derrick Williams was the only member of their Irish contingent to figure.
Daryl Murphy made his first appearance since November as a late sub for Newcastle yet he was unable to rescue the situation for Rafa Benitez's charges.
Norwich coped with the absence of the suspended Robbie Brady to register a significant 3-0 success over Derby County to stop their rot. Wes Hoolahan was recalled and played a big part.
It was also a good afternoon for another former League of Ireland player, with Brian Murphy keeping a clean sheet for Cardiff as a first-half Joe Ralls effort was enough to see off Aston Villa.
The 33-year-old was on the verge of coming home to sign for Dundalk last summer yet was tempted by a last-minute offer from Cardiff to join them as a back-up netminder and has just broken into their side.
Elsewhere, Irish target Scott Hogan scored his 14th goal of the season and then missed a penalty as Brentford won at Birmingham.
Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan did not make Preston's squad despite receiving clearance in time for their 1-0 win at Burton.
Ex-Galway starlet Ryan Manning built on his debut win on Saturday by staying in the QPR side for their 2-1 defeat at Ipswich.
And Ireland U-19 international Connor Ronan made his first start for Wolves in a scoreless draw at Sheffield Wednesday, with manager Paul Lambert thrilled by the teenager's efforts, saying: "It was a good as debut as I've seen from a young player."
Former Ireland midfielder John Sheridan has lost his job as Notts County manager after a run of nine defeats.