Coleman and McCarthy to play big part in Big Sam's Everton plan
Everton manager Sam Allardyce believes that a fit James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman are part of the solution to the club's problems.
Allardyce cited the Irish duo in the aftermath of the New Year's Day defeat to Manchester United that provided a reminder of the work that is needed to turn things around at Goodison Park.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Allardyce did hail the contribution of second-half sub McCarthy who was booed by some fans when he stepped forward to replace Wayne Rooney.
His combative approach was praised by the new manager, with the 27-year-old described as the 'shining light' because of his physical approach that made life difficult for United players.
But Allardyce later suggested that McCarthy's confidence has been affected by a stop-start 18 months which have been dominated by concerns about his hamstring.
However, another problem for the player was a chequered relationship with former boss Ronald Koeman who engaged in a spat with Martin O'Neill over international call-ups - and disputes over the cause of the recurring setbacks.
There was speculation about McCarthy's Everton future, yet it was reported over Christmas that Allardyce was ready to give him time and his positive words in the context of a broader discussion on his squad will hearten the midfielder.
Irish captain Coleman is also working his way back towards first team involvement and he was referenced by Allardyce.
"There is still some doubt in James' mind because of the length of time he has been out and the injury recurring in the same area," said Allardyce. "We are delicately managing it. We won't see the best of Yannick Bolasie for eight or nine matches but we have to put him on otherwise we will never get him into the swing of it again.
"It's not an ideal situation to be in - and James McCarthy has been out for 18 months to two years which is even longer than Yannick, even though it has been a lot of little injuries rather than one serious injury.
"We will try and overcome that problem. If we can put Seamus Coleman back in that and Leighton Baines back in that we will get a stronger team I think. And if we can find someone in January who can score goals we will get better."
Meanwhile, another Irishman to make a step forward over the Christmas period was Preston's Greg Cunningham. He suffered a serious hamstring injury in August but came back into contention during the festive season and started in last Friday's win at Cardiff.
Cunningham was then left on the bench for the Monday loss to Middlesbrough with manager Alex Neil explaining that it would be too much of a risk to put one of his main men through two quick games.
"I thought that with Greg having played 82 minutes at Cardiff after four months out with no practice matches, it would have been negligent of me to start him," said Neil. "If he had got injured again I would have blamed myself. It might have been asking too much of Greg and we had to be sensible."
Cunningham is likely to take part in the weekend's FA Cup tie with Wycombe, which might prevent Kevin O'Connor from getting another chance to broaden his education - the ex-Cork City left full will be in good spirits either way after winning €1m in a National Lottery draw.
Back at home, Bohs have signed Irish U-19 left-back Darragh Leahy after his release from Coventry.