Mark Travers and John Egan shine but fewer lights among Ireland’s Tier Two winners

The curtain fell on the final day of the Championship season as a number of Irish players prepared to bid farewell after a campaign in which England’s second division had winners and losers from an Irish perspective.

Three Irish players have already been promoted to the Premier League (Mark Travers, Robbie Brady, Gavin Kilkenny) although Brady still has some way to go before he can plan for top-flight football next season as he only has two starts on a short-term contract expires next month.

And four others are in contention for promotion: Enda Stevens, John Egan, Conor Hourihane and David McGoldrick – all at Sheffield United.

To counteract these positives, no fewer than seven eligible players for Ireland were with clubs relegated to League One: the Derby County quartet of Jason Knight, Festy Ebosele, Eiran Cashin and Louie Watson, as well as Barnsley’s William Hondermarck and the Uncapped Couple Jack Taylor and Sammie Szmodics in Peterborough.

They’ve been demoted from the championship, but some of them will say so too slan to their clubs.

Ebosele’s pre-agreed deal to join Udinese from Derby did not go well as Rams boss Wayne Rooney was unhappy with the Wexford boy’s attitude after the deal was made public, while Derby have to admit defeat at any plan to take on Jason to hold Knight, who deserves to play in the championship at least.

For the title of top-rated Irishman in this league, it’s difficult to decide between Travers, with his 20 clean sheets in 45 games, and Egan’s status as Sheffield United’s ubiquitous season in a physically demanding league.

Darragh Lenihan also had a good season at Blackburn Rovers, although his club should have done better than eighth place.

The club want Lenihan now out of contract after a long stint at Ewood Park, but with a healthy return of three goals in 41 games – healthy for a defender – the Meather native is well placed in terms of offers.

Also at Blackburn, ex-Drogheda man James Brown became the 45th Ireland-legal player to appear in the Championship when he made his debut on the final day of the season, a boost for him.

Away from the spotlight and away from the promotion places there have been some very good Irish artists. Danny McNamara has played 37 times for Millwall, won some of the club’s Player of the Year awards and a U-21 call-up is only a matter of time. Hull City had a difficult season, finishing just three places above the relegation zone, but Cork’s Sean McLoughlin stood out, 29 starts, an impressive tally.

Underage internationals Joel Bagan and Mark McGuinness have done well for a poor Cardiff City side, while a 12-goal win by Michael Obafemi at Swansea is hopefully an indication of what is to come from him. Jimmy Dunne (QPR) and Alan Browne (Preston) also deserve high marks for performing at underperforming clubs.

Aside from those names, a number of Irish players ended the tenure with question marks, notably Premier League loanees. Middlesbrough would have hoped for more than two goals in 21 games from Aaron Connolly, while Jeff Hendrick’s loan move to QPR was also disappointing.

Injuries haven’t helped, but four full 90-minute games in four months isn’t ideal. His future is now unclear as he is out of the ordinary at Newcastle and has done little at QPR to merit a long-term move.

Hourihane would have hoped for more than 15 starts and a goal for Sheffield United, his time at Aston Villa is now over, while Callum O’Dowda (16 starts) is making a move from Bristol City. Mark Travers and John Egan shine but fewer lights among Ireland’s Tier Two winners

Fry Electronics Team

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