Sport Premier League

Friday 17 January 2020

Daniel McDonnell: 'The Irish Premier League 11 last weekend highlights strides in the right direction'

Norwich City's Adam Idah. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Norwich City's Adam Idah. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It was a weekend which highlighted the strides made by Irish footballers across this Premier League season, even if some of those involved will have better days.

The last-minute injury to Aaron Ramsdale that opened the door for Mark Travers to play for Bournemouth yesterday means that Mick McCarthy could now technically call upon an entire XI that have played in the English top flight this term.

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Darren Randolph is also on the way into that elite bracket with West Ham, albeit as back-up to Lukasz Fabianski with the injury sustained by the Pole on Friday exposing just how badly-timed the Bray man's current injury setback is.

With James McCarthy drafted into the Crystal Palace side and Shane Long selected again for Southampton, it's possible to put together a side from the dozen Irishmen that featured in the first Premier League weekend of the 2020s.

There's a spare defender left over with Shane Duffy, John Egan and Ciaran Clark all featuring. Duffy has been in and out of the Brighton side this season and has spoken of the need to remain professional through that frustration.

He has praised Graham Potter for being honest with him about his reduced role from the outset.

Potter pointed out that Duffy played through the pain barrier with a groin problem at Everton and McCarthy will be hoping no such risks are taken as the play-offs draw closer.

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Meanwhile, Aaron Connolly was left out of the Brighton squad for tactical reasons with Potter effectively taking the front man out of the firing line after a surprisingly active season. The feeling is that he would benefit from a slight break as he adjusts to this level.

For Adam Idah, a full Premier League debut was an education as he found it hard to make an impact as Norwich were torn apart at Old Trafford. Daniel Farke was sympathetic to the Cork teen afterwards.

"It was difficult for him in front of 70,000 people to be there with his first appearance in a Premier League starting line-up," he said.

"Sometimes, you have to jump in the water. We got the feeling it was his chance because we have several injured strikers. Teemu Pukki and Josip Drmic will come back in the next days and it was a difficult situation.

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Arsenal defender David Luiz (L) vies with Brighton's Aaron Connolly. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

"We backed him and he worked a lot. I was pleased with his workload and I didn't expect any miracles from him."

Doncaster manager Darren Moore was guarded when asked about the Irish U-21 international in the aftermath of Saturday.

Terry Connor was at Old Trafford to watch the front man, but it remains possible that he will go out on loan to further his education - he was bound for League One Doncaster until his cup hat-trick at Preston.

The step up to playing against Premier League players provided a reminder that it's unwise to expect too much too soon.

Travers also was caught out when a attempted pass was intercepted en route to Watford's opening goal, with the Lucan United product sticking to Eddie Howe's philosophy by attempting to play the ball out from the back.

He's likely to drop to the sidelines when Ramsdale shakes off a minor problem.

McCarthy will be hopeful that his involvement in the Palace midfield in their draw with Arsenal leads to a longer run in the side.

He was in combative form, but needs to back it up with a run of performances.

The Glaswegian did not come into the Ireland squad in November because he wanted to concentrate on establishing himself at Palace following a slow start.

Irish management didn't appear too impressed, but Glenn Whelan's uncertain club situation following his inglorious exit from Hearts means that the progress of McCarthy will be of interest to his namesake with March in mind.

Irish Independent

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