Sunday 22 September 2019

Winter window of opportunity for ambitious Irish

Long, who has 17 goals for his country, has netted just twice in the last 58 games for his club and has yet to do so this season. Photo: Getty
Long, who has 17 goals for his country, has netted just twice in the last 58 games for his club and has yet to do so this season. Photo: Getty

Colin Young

The transfer window reopens on Tuesday and the January sales will offer the opportunity for several members of Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland squad to make career-changing moves ahead of the start of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Although the winter window is a notoriously difficult period to secure permanent and loan deals, there are players within the Irish set-up who could greatly benefit from a fresh start in new surroundings. Others will be happy to sit and wait until the summer.

Shane Long
Current club: Southampton
Age: 31
Ireland caps: 82

The striker has 18 months left on his contract at Southampton but could find himself surplus to new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl's requirements as the Austrian aims to secure the club's Premier League status and Long's struggles continue. He has just returned from the ankle injury which forced him to miss Ireland's games against Northern Ireland and Denmark last month and has featured in Southampton's last two games, appearing as a substitute against Arsenal and West Ham. He created Charlie Austin's winner against Arsenal but his goals record is a major concern for a top-flight striker. Long, who has 17 goals for his country, has netted just twice in the last 58 games for his club and has yet to do so this season. The former Cork City player, who turns 32 in January, has inevitably lost some of his pace, which has always been his greatest asset, but has at least maintained his enthusiasm. With fellow Irish striker Michael Obafemi on the verge of a first team return, Long's starts could be limited in the second half of the season and a move to a Championship club offers a fresh start. Promotion-chasing Sheffield United are among those keen and manager Chris Wilder has three Irish regulars in his side, including striker David McGoldrick who is hardly prolific but has found his uses at Bramall Lane after a summer switch from Ipswich.

Ronan Curtis
Current club: Portsmouth
Age: 22
Ireland caps: 2

Numerous Championship clubs have cast an eye on the former Derry City forward who was in red-hot goalscoring form at the start of the season and earned his first Ireland call-up from Martin O'Neill for the Nations League campaign - debuting against Northern Ireland in last month's friendly.

Curtis moved to Fratton Park from Derry in May in a deal believed to be worth around £100,000 to the Candystripes and made his first league appearance for Portsmouth in August. Curtis scored six and provided five assists in his first 13 games, although the goals have somewhat dried up since. Middlesbrough, Derby County, Bristol City and Leeds United have all been watching Curtis but it would take an offer in excess of £2m to tempt Portsmouth to sell as they look to return to the second tier of English football next season.

Curtis recently scored in the significant League One win over title rivals Sunderland. Like Curtis with Pompey, Aiden McGeady has been an integral part of Sunderland's promotion campaign and only a large offer would see manager Jack Ross sell one of his best-paid and most experienced players.

James McCarthy
Current club: Everton
Age: 28
Ireland caps: 41

According to the latest medical bulletin from Goodison, the midfielder is 'ready to return' and Toffees boss Marco Silva has been singing McCarthy's praises during his recovery from a leg break. The 28-year-old has been out for nearly a year after suffering a horrific double fracture against West Bromwich Albion in January. He was a sorely-missed absentee for O'Neill and will be a welcome addition for Mick McCarthy.

Despite the encouraging noises from his manager, McCarthy has his work cut out to gain regular first-team football before the Euro 2020 campaign starts in March. Everton have had a run of erratic results since losing the Merseyside derby at the beginning of the month.

They entertain Leicester on Tuesday night but the FA Cup third round tie at home to Lincoln City might be the more likely occasion for McCarthy to appear. A number of Championship clubs will be checking his progress and he could benefit from a spell out on loan if opportunities under Silva prove limited.

Scott Hogan
Current club: Aston Villa
Age: 26
Ireland caps: 2

Salford-born striker Hogan joined Villa two years ago in January but has found it difficult to nail down a regular place. He has not started a league game this season, has made just six substitute appearances - only one of them lasting more than 10 minutes - and has not scored. Hogan, who made his Ireland debut in the same friendly as Declan Rice against Turkey, had scored 10 goals in 54 games for Villa prior to this season but Dean Smith has preferred on-loan frontmen Yannick Bolasie and Tammy Abraham in Villa's promising promotion run so far. With Seán Maguire injured again and other strikers staking their claim, Hogan is another player who could find a loan spell in a new environment to his, and Ireland's, liking.

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