Daniel McDonnell rates the Irish players performances in this season's Premier League
Daniel McDonnell rates the Irish stars of the Premier League season with the Southampton striker top of the pile
As the curtain draws on another Premier League season, the dearth of Irish players operating regularly at that level remains a concern with a view to the future.
With one round of games to go, 20 Irishmen have spent time on the pitch during this Premier League campaign. Ahead of this summer's European Championships, here we rank the league contribution of the top-flight performers and assesses what role, if any, they might have in France next month.
1 Shane Long (Southampton)
Premier League appearances: 27
The clear pick for top spot after a season which really took off after Christmas although the confidence boost from his Germany heroics may well have contributed to his development. Long reached double figures in a Premier League campaign for the first time in his career and has improved his overall game outside the box. He is a significant player for a team that was only a couple of wins away from being part of the Champions League discussion.
Euro 2016 status: The 29-year-old has peaked at just the right time and should lead the line this summer
2 Glenn Whelan (Stoke)
Premier League appearances: 36
He has seen off a variety of challengers at Stoke to remain a valued member of Mark Hughes' squad and he was on course to be an ever-present until he suffered an unusual back injury getting out of his car. Whelan may not be a darling of the fans or the media but he is respected by his peers who appreciate his importance. The 32-year-old has made over 300 appearances for Stoke.
Euro 2016 status: O'Neill trusts him too although he does have a few options in midfield.
3 Harry Arter (Bournemouth)
Premier League appearances: 21
A lofty position for a player who was injured for a good chunk of the campaign might be a surprise but he earns credit for carrying himself like a regular in this sphere when he was actually a first-timer. Arter also had to cope with personal tragedy and it's to his credit that he continued to perform at a high standard while dealing with the loss of a baby. He's an impressive character both on and off the park.
Euro 2016 status: There's a compelling case for taking a chance on a player that hasn't made his competitive debut.
4 James McClean (West Brom)
Premier League appearances: 34
This time last year McClean was in a Wigan team headed for League One so the fact that he has played almost a full part in this Premier League season is a testament to how hard he has worked since earning a summer switch to West Brom. Aside from one daft sending-off, he has acquitted himself reasonably well with Tony Pulis appreciating his work ethic.
Euro 2016 status: Strong chance he will figure in every Ireland game but starting them is another matter.
5 Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace)
Premier League appearances: 31
Palace lost their way after Christmas and were a flakier outfit than the 2014/'15 version. Delaney has retained his popularity, however, and the 34-year-old could finish the season on a high in next weekend's FA Cup final with Manchester United. The Corkman has turned into a very consistent Premier standard performer.
Euro 2016 status: That ship has sailed. O'Neill was happy with his existing options before Delaney checked out.
6 Jon Walters (Stoke)
Premier League appearances: 26
The main man in Ireland's qualifying campaign was a bit puzzled that it coincided with a period out of the side at Stoke as Hughes went with a different front three for a run of matches. Signed a new contract to secure his future yet it's unlikely that he will reflect on the club aspect of this campaign too fondly. He was actually linked with Leicester when his future was uncertain last August.
Euro 2016 status: One of the first names in the team-sheet, even if his specific brief is likely to change from game to game and probably within games as well.
7 Rob Elliot (Newcastle Utd)
Premier League appearances: 21
The response to his cruciate heartbreak at the Aviva Stadium in March illustrated the extent to which he has become an important player at Newcastle. It was a big news in the North-East and they were really worried about the impact of his unavailability. That is a compliment to how he played when stepping in for Tim Krul.
Euro 2016 status: Sadly out of the picture as he works towards an autumn recovery date.
8 Robbie Brady (Norwich City)
Premier League appearances: 35
His Hull career was stop-start so this has been his first full Premier League season as a regular. It featured some good personal moments and in another scenario it would be labelled as a move in the right direction although his form tailed off in the closing weeks and Alex Neil dropped him for the first time on Wednesday.
The pain of relegation leaves him at the crossroads again just 12 months after he pushed for a move after Hull fell through the trapdoor.
Euro 2016 status: O'Neill rates Brady highly and it's just a question of whether he plays at left-back or in midfield
9 Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City)
Premier League appearances: 29
Still gets taken out of the firing line for certain matches, yet he has topped the assist chart for Norwich and might have created more if they had a really top-class striker in their ranks. Every Premier League game means something to Hoolahan following his late arrival on this stage and it's a real shame that they are headed south again.
Euro 2016 status: Would be a shock if he didn't start against Sweden.
10 James McCarthy (Everton)
Premier League appearances: 28
At the start of the campaign, it was the Everton crew that were expected to push on towards the right end of the table. They've endured a frustrating year and, while McCarthy was missed during an enforced spell on the sidelines, it would be a stretch to describe his season as a good one. Only a handful of Everton players could reasonably do so.
Euro 2016 status: He was good against Germany and in the Bosnia play-off and his energy will be important in France
11 Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Premier League appearances: 28
A season where his performances have fallen below his usual high standards. Similar to McCarthy, he could point to a question mark over his fitness that lingered from the early weeks with a persistent hamstring problem an irritant. The goals dried up as he got caught up in Everton's malaise; it will be interesting to see what happens now that Roberto Martinez has departed.
Euro 2016 status: Ironically enough, he brought his best club form to the table in the Bosnia play-off. This is his time to shine.
12 John O'Shea (Sunderland)
Premier League appearances: 27
The 35-year-old is in the final stretch of a laudable career and a minor knock has affected him slightly as Sam Allardyce has preferred other options for the run-in. Struggled in the first half of the season before putting in some decent displays after Christmas. Unclear where he stands for next term as he faces into a summer of decisions.
Euro 2016 status: Percentage call is that he plays although the Keogh-Clark partnership did do well against Bosnia.
13 Darren Randolph (West Ham)
Premier League appearances: 5
Would be higher on this list if the criteria extended to performances in all competitions as his best displays for West Ham came in cup competitions. Adrian was the man for the league unless injured or suspended. Randolph made his top-flight debut in a 4-3 loss to Bournemouth but did get to experience the eventful win over Manchester United on Tuesday even though he erred for one of Anthony Martial's goals.
Euro 2016 status: Ireland's first-choice netminder must stay fit.
14 Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
Premier League appearances: 18
Tim Sherwood brought in Joleon Lescott to play ahead of Clark, a ploy which backfired. That said, after starring in the play-off win over Bosnia, the defender went back to Villa and was error-prone as Remi Garde surveyed his options. He was a better bet than Lescott and might well benefit from a clear run in the side at Championship level. Earned praise for display against Newcastle last weekend.
Euro 2016 status: He's put his hand up for inclusion in the starting side.
15 Eunan O'Kane (Bournemouth)
Premier League appearances: 16
He made a bigger contribution to Bournemouth's top-table bow than he did to the promotion season although his opportunities were reduced somewhat when Arter was on the scene. Eddie Howe appears to rate O'Kane, and he is suited to their style of play but his challenge is to advance beyond the bit-part-player bracket.
Euro 2016 status: Impressed against Slovakia but O'Neill's words of praise made reference to the World Cup campaign.
16 Kevin Toner (Aston Villa)
Premier League appearances: 3
The cloud over Villa had a silver lining for Toner. He was due to be released in the summer and had discussed a loan switch to Bohemians in January which didn't materialise. However, caretaker boss Eric Black likes his combative approach and decided to throw him in for the last couple of games. It's turned out to be a popular move as the Meath man has outshone seasoned pros.
Euro 2016 status: Not a contender but he could become Meath's first senior international somewhere down the line.
17 Stephen Ireland (Stoke)
Premier League appearances: 13
A broken leg in training earlier this week capped a campaign where all of his appearances came as a substitute. Produces the odd touch which makes you wonder what might have been but the reality is that Martin O'Neill isn't missing out on much. He's made a lot of money by surviving at the highest level but he is a squad member now.
Euro 2016 status: The injury changes nothing
18 Darron Gibson (Everton)
Premier League appearances: 7
Gibson has played just 51 league games since joining Everton six months ahead of the last European Championships, a figure which tells its own story. Was in the headlines for the wrong reasons at start of season and also kept the medical department busy again. Didn't go out on loan and was kept around for cameo role in closing weeks.
Euro 2016 status: He's in that group players who could just miss out unless they do something exceptional against Holland - that is if they get the chance.
19 Shay Given (Stoke)
Premier League appearances: 2
He accepted that he would be a reserve option when he put pen to paper last summer and when he broke down in the win over Germany, it meant the veteran was unable to step in for the FA Cup run. Once he returned to fitness, Jack Butland's misfortune opened the door but Given's groin gave in at the wrong time to leave his Euros ambitions in jeopardy and cap a frustrating nine months.
Euro 2016 status: Elliot's injury means he could still travel as a cover option if fit.
20 Marc Wilson (Stoke)
Premier League appearances: 4
A season to forget for Wilson who is now sweating over his place in Ireland's Euro 2016 squad. Injury was the primary reason for an interrupted campaign with a damaged knee preventing the 28-year-old from contributing to the second half of Stoke's journey. He was out of favour when fit and, at this stage of his career, he needs to be taking a step forward instead of two back.
Euro 2016 status: Wilson is now in squeaky bum territory with question marks over his durability.