Irish in Championship promotion battle
As the battle to secure promotion into the Premier League hots up, we here at Greenscene decided to have a look at the Irish players that have a realistic hope of playing in the English top tier come August.
QPR appear to have the Championsip sewn up already. The West London side have been impressive throughout the year. Paddy Kenny has been an ever present in goal for them and has had an outstanding season thus far. Only 23 goals conceded in 39 games tells the full story. Should, as expected, QPR seal promotion then Kenny will get his second bite at the Premiership, again under Neil Warnock. However his international career is still in limbo. Martin Rowlands, on loan at Millwall, is still on the books at QPR. He has done very well to ressurect his career after a dreadful injury suffered on international duty. Only time will tell if he will remain with QPR should they win promotion. Michael Harriman is also at QPR but has not featured this season.
Norwich have surprised many people this season with their consistency in the Championship. Just the one Irish player on the books at Carrow Road. Wes Hoolahan has had a terrific season and many Irish fans have been left a little puzzled by his continuous absence from Irish squads. Only recently signed a new contract at Norwich and will hope to get the chance to show his ability in the top flight. Found the net 10 times and seems to have upped his game this season. Norwich sit 4 points above the playoff spots.
Cardiff, very much like Norwich, have only the one Irish player on their books. Stephen McPhail has enjoyed an eventful career to date, from playing the semi final of the Champions League, to the depths of League 1. On top of this his career was nearly ended last season when he was diagnosed with cancer. Still a key player for Cardiff and is their vice captain. After showing so much talent when breaking through at Leeds, it is a little surprising to know that McPhail only has 10 caps for Ireland.
Swansea, like their Welsh neighbours, look assured of a playoff spot. Also, like Cardiff again, Swansea do not have much Irish presence. Thomas Butler is the only Irish player in their squad. Butler has only just returned from injury this week, playing his first reserve game against Swindon. Butler has endured a dreadful 12 months as a result of a troublesome thigh injury.
Leeds currently sit 4 points inside the playoff spot. Leeds have endured a number of horrible years after the heights they reached under David O’Leary. Currently there are two Irish players at Elland Road. Andy O’Brien has seen his career rejuvenated since his move to Leeds. His defensive partner at times has tended to be Alex Bruce. There have been times this season where Bruce has struggled to hold down a starting spot though.
Reading are a side who have been very close to Irish players hearts for a number of years now. Shane Long is their headline grabbing player this term. Long has enjoyed his most productive season to date. Long currently sits second on the Championship top goalscorers chart. He can expect to be playing Premier League football next season come what may. Long is one of a catalogue of Irish players at Reading. Ian Harte is currently enjoying an Indian summer in North London. Jay Tabb has shown his commitment to Reading by signing a new 2 year contract today. Noel Hunt is also at the Majeski. Hunt is happy just to be back playing having endured a difficult spell with injuries recently. Reading also have a number of Irish players out on loan, including Dave Mooney, Marcus Williams, Julian Kelly and Danny Joyce.
Just the one Irish player currently playing for Nottingham Forest. Defender Brendan Maloney has been at the City ground for nearly 5 years now but has struggled to make much of an impact. His loan spell at Scunthorpe ended early due to injury. Fellow Irish player Mark Byrne is out on loan at Barnet.
Millwall are enjoying a great season so far. Goalkeeper David Forde has been doing well, impressing Alan Kelly on a recent scouting trip and earning his first call up to the Ireland squad. Generally he has been very impressive apart from the odd blip (conceding 6 at home to Watford being a good example). In front of Forde is Millwall vice captain Alan Dunne. Dunne won Millwall’s player of the season last season and the tough defender has continued his fine form this season.
Burnley are still in with a slight chance of making the playoffs. Chris McCann, a player that so much was expected not so long back is on the books at Burnley. McCann has endured a simply awful 18 months. As well has his constant knee injuries, McCann had the worry of having to have fluid removed from his brain. Just 2 years ago Irish fans believed McCann was destined for a long International career. Now that his injuries are behind him, and the club are willing to give him a new contract, hopefully McCann can regain his fine form from Burnley’s last successful promotion.
As things stand the two automatic promotions spots appear to be wrapped up by QPR and Norwich. Regarding the playoffs, it would be in Ireland’s interest for Reading to seal promotion. They are currently in great form and given his form this season, many Irish fans would like to see Shane Long back in the Premier League.