Spotlight: Greg Cunningham
With Greg Cunningham set to win his third cap for Ireland tonight’s friendly international with Norway, GreenScene takes a look at the young left-back’s career so far.
A former Republic of Ireland underage player, Greg Cunningham first came to many people’s attention when he was called up to the Ireland squad by Giovanni Trapattoni for the international friendly against Brazil in Ferbruary of this year. At the time, he had yet to play a Premier League match for Manchester City, and had only made his full club debut a month before, against Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup, where he came on as a half-time substitute.
Cunningham did not feature in the Brazil game, but the 19 year old would finally make both his league and international debuts just shortly after. He played twice in the league for Man City at the end of the 2009-10 season. His first game coming on the 11th of April, where he got a run out in the 90th minute for Adam Johnson, with Manchester City 5-1 up at home to Birmingham City. The Caramore, Co. Galway youngster featured again in the last game of the season, coming on in the 89th minute against West Ham (once again for Johnson).
A few weeks later, on May 28th, Cunningham was named by Trapattoni in Ireland’s starting eleven against Algeria in an international friendly at the RDS. He played the full 90 minutes, and settled into the game well, particularly in the second half. His next taste of international action came against Argentina in August, where he came on as a 57th minute substitute for veteran Kevin Kilbane, the player Cunningham will succeed as Ireland’s first choice left-back.
With first team opportunities for Irish players under Roberto Mancini few and far between, Cunningham joined Championship side Leicester City in October on loan. He did make two appearances for City this season before his move, including his European debut in the Europa League against Timişoara. He has been ever-present in the starting lineup, playing every minute of Leicester’s last five games, and his confidence is really growing.
Originally a striker at schoolboy level, Cunningham played for local clubs Cregmore FC and Mervue United before joining Man City in 2007. Cunningham’s twin brother Daniel is also a promising talent, and is currently playing for Mervue. Gregory Cunnigham, as he was known then, made his debut in a green jersey for the Irish under 15s and 16s, before moving up to the under 17s in August 2007 against Russia, playing a total of 13 games at that level, including playing in the 2008 UEFA Under 17 European Championship finals. He then moved up to under 19 and under 21 level, before progressing to the senior squad, where he will play his third game tonight.