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Friday 20 April 2018

Where now for Irish football? Here is the lowdown on our players across the water

Ireland striker Daryl Murphy tries to get the better of Scotland's Charlie Mulgrew. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Ireland striker Daryl Murphy tries to get the better of Scotland's Charlie Mulgrew. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
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John Fallon

The struggles afflicting Ireland's international team at present are mirrored by the club status of some of the players as the summer transfer window takes centre stage in the coming weeks.

Already, some have resolved their futures, but James McClean's €2m transfer to West Brom is the only move so far representing a degree of progress for Ireland's international players.

Most have simply drifted sideways to protect their long-term employment in a market where players become dispensable with age.

One Irishman whose reputation hasn't been damaged with the passing of time is Daryl Murphy.

Goalscorers come at a premium price, an explanation for the Ipswich striker's valuation touching €6.5m in the eyes of some suitors.

As for a marquee move, unless Manchester United follow up their interest in Seamus Coleman, then Roy Keane's craving for Irish players to regain representation among the Champions League sides will extend for another year at least.

Here, we look at the movers so far and those whose futures may be shaped by the transfer activities of clubs up the deadline of September 1 - the same week Ireland's players gather next for international duty.

James McClean set to seal £1.5m move to West Brom

Done Deals

Whether it was due to Martin O'Neill's advice or not, James McClean snubbed offers from Major League Soccer in America to make a Premier League return.

The 26-year-old was in demand the moment his Wigan Athletic side got relegated to League One.

Of the rest, Darren Randolph's move to West Ham from Birmingham carries the most high-level potential.

The goalkeeper started for the Hammers in their Europa League tie last Thursday, but that's no guarantee of Premier League action.

Of the other Irish gaining new employment, Hull City duo Stephen Quinn and Paul McShane joined Reading in the last fortnight.

Centre-back McShane will occupy the void left by the departure of Alex Pearce to Derby County, also on a free transfer.

Contender for the most curious Irish transfer of the summer so far goes to Rob Kiernan. The former Ireland U-21 captain has linked up with the coach he worked with during his youth, Mark Warburton, at Glasgow Rangers.

Whether operating in the Scottish Championship is better for the 24-year-old's career than the third tier of English football with Wigan is debatable.

A player evidently enjoying a new lease of life is Colorado Rapids recruit Kevin Doyle, who scored his first MLS goal on Saturday night.

O'Neill, however, hasn't viewed the 31-year-old as having a meaningful involvement during his Ireland project.

Stoke's Jonathan Walters

On the move?

Murphy has been given an extra week off before reporting for pre-season training but can expect frank discussions with his Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy upon his return.

McCarthy has so far rejected at least one bid for Murphy, understood to be from Middlesbrough, while interest from Cardiff City and West Brom also remains.

"We don't want to sell Daryl," said McCarthy of last season's leading scorer in the Championship with 27 goals. "That is what I will be telling him and his agent when he returns. We want to keep him and it would be difficult to fill his boots."

Hull's relegation had only been confirmed when speculation surrounding Robbie Brady surfaced. One of the few players to emerge with his stock intact from last season, the versatile left-sided playmaker has also nailed down a place in the Ireland side.

"It is in people's minds - it's your life at the end of the day and you want to be here making the best living for yourself," Brady revealed about the 50pc wage cut relegation triggered in players' contracts.

Norwich City lead the queue for a player Steve Bruce is reluctant to allow to leave for less than €5m.

Still, like Murphy, the fact that Brady has only one season left on his contract puts him in a strong bargaining position should his wish to make a swift Premier League return develop into a stand-off.

"Will I stay? I'm still contracted at Hull for another year, so I'd be fighting to get the team back up if that's what happens," he said.

Another mainstay of the Irish team, Jonathan Walters, also faces a "stick or twist" dilemma.

Although the Stoke City forward recently took umbrage at the way quotes regarding his club situation were interpreted in the Irish media, there is no denying contract negotiations have been difficult.

Entering the final year of his deal, the 31-year-old is seeking stability in the form of a long-term extension.

Given that Charlie Adam last week secured a one-year deal, with the option of another, Stoke's policy appears not to match the expectations of Walters.

Despite Potters chairman Peter Coates publicly stating their desire to keep Walters, a parting of the ways is not an unviable prospect. A possible reunion with former boss Tony Pulis at West Brom has been floated.

"Jon has been an excellent player for us, and remains an excellent player," said Coates about a player who has scored more than 50 goals in 200 outings.

"There is no question of us not wanting him, none at all. When you look back over his contribution during his five years with us, we couldn't be more pleased with what Jon has achieved."

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United target: Seamus Coleman

Will I stay or will I go?

Talk of Coleman making an upward move from Everton persists.

With United allegedly cooling their interest in Nathaniel Clyne ahead of the right-back's transfer to Liverpool, it leaves open the possibly of the Red Devils having another target lined up or, less likely, being satisfied with cover in that area.

Louis van Gaal's admiration of the Donegal man is well known, yet a move could hinge on Everton's willingness to accept Jonny Evans as part-exchange in a deal worth around €25m.

Coleman's team-mate Aiden McGeady might also seek a change of scene.

Injury problems counteracted a promising start to last season, and the winger found himself frozen out after a return to fitness. Reports that emerged last week of McGeady being unsettled at Everton were hardly surprising.

Watford's arrival in the Premier League initially indicated positive news for Ireland U-21 captain Tommie Hoban, yet their splurge of defensive captures Sebastian Prodl, Étienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli diminishes his chances of game-time. Charlton Athletic are among the clubs keen on a loan deal, which might be the best short-term option for both Hoban and Ireland.

Richard Dunne played in the Premier League for Everton, Manchester City, Aston Villa and QPR

Stuck in a rut

As players returned for pre-season training last week, Richard Dunne was still waiting to find a new club.

Having cut his ties with QPR, the veteran centre-back insisted retirement wasn't on the agenda. The 35-year-old would be aware that the scale of wages he's been used to will not form part of negotiations.

Tim Sherwood's open pursuit of Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic suggests Shay Given's reprieve between the sticks for Aston Villa towards the end of last season will be temporary. Given needs game-time to be sure of retaining his No 1 status for Ireland.

Another unsuccessful promotion tilt at Derby County is not an option for Jeff Hendrick, if he's to fulfil the potential his displays in an Irish jersey have indicated.

The Dubliner has known nothing except the Rams since his teens but, midway through his 24th year, the Premier League is increasingly looking like the only show in town for him.

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