Column: A League Of Ireland Abroad XI.

Column: A League Of Ireland Abroad XI.
By Paul Ring Updated
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The amount of players that started their trade in the League of Ireland forcing their way into the full Ireland squad has increased in recent times, so Conor Philpott asks; what is the best 11 abroad that started in the LOI?

I promise a lot of goals, both for and against, it's almost strange to think that many of these players could make a Trappatoni team without too many questions or arguments from fans, I guess it shows that despite what some may think there is certainly talent in the League of Ireland.

David Forde was a pretty obvious choice, aside from Brian Murphy at QPR I don't think there is another Irish keeper who has come through the league although I might be wrong on that, Murphy has found himself behind the likes of Paddy Kenny, Rob Green and Julio Cesar and has yet to see Premier League action but has appeared in the Championship for both Swansea and Ipswich.

I will add that there are certain areas that the League of Ireland has struggled to produce players abroad consistently, by my count only 5 of the current 60 League of Ireland players abroad are centre backs, is it a coincidence that Ireland's options, when you look beyond Dunne, St.Ledger, and O'Shea (you could include Clark, but I personally see his future being as a defensive midfielder, while there are some others who are probably a bit too young or inexperienced to be considered) are also quite limited? Perhaps, it is. Delaney is a former Cork City player who will spend next season playing in the Premier League with Crystal Palace, he usually plays left back but is capable of playing centre back. He was a mainstay of the early Trap era where he picked up his 8 caps, but fell by the wayside somewhat, but he was included, in the squad for the recent games. Dillon, is a former Shelbourne and Longford Town player, who plies his trade with Dundee United, while never capped with the senior team, he has a wealth of experience, for Dundee and has played in the Europa league (qualifying rounds admittedly) with the Tangerines as recently as last season.


Both Coleman, the former Sligo Rovers player and Stephen Ward formerly of Bohemians, need no introduction, Coleman is one of the most former celebrated League Of Ireland players and his "late development" is used as an example for younger kids who don't wish to move abroad, or who aren't offered deals. He is a premier league regular with Everton appearing at both right back and right midfield, his Ireland career has got off to a good start, albeit quite a slow one, I don't think I'm alone in feeling that Trappatoni should have capped him more frequently, with the youngster only becoming a mainstay in the squad after last year's European Championships. Ward has fallen out of favour with Trappatoni as Marc Wilson is now the starting left back, the former Bohemians man is something of a utility man, having began life as a centre forward he has played both left wing and left back for Wolves. Both he and Wolves haven't had a great 12 months as Wolves suffered successive relegations and now face life in League 1 next year.

The midfield had numerous options, and it has been an area of strength for the league. Ultimately I opted for those with the best experience, and for guys who could play a future role within the Irish setup, my affiliation with Cork City may also have played a small part, in the team as a whole! Dave Meyler, son of current Carlow Hurling manager and former Cork/Wexford hurler John Meyler, is a former Cork City player. Much like Shane Long, he found it tough to get continuous game time, with some quality players in the team, like former Irish internationals Joe Gamble and Colin Healy. He moved to Sunderland then under the stewardship of Roy Keane, after a loan spell at the start of the year, he moved permanently to Hull in January where he linked up with former boss Steve Bruce, and helped guide the Tigers to promotion. Keith Fahey is a familiar name to all too, the former Dorgheda and St. Pats man is currently a free agent after his deal with Birmingham City ran out. He has struggled with injury in the last year where he made only 10 appearances for both club and country. A skillful player who many League of Ireland fans will remember for his superb free kicks and sublime passing, the former Arsenal Youth-teamer has been a part of Trappatoni's squads when healthy and was originally included in the squad for the Euros only to miss out due to an injury.


I think it is fair to say that Wes Hoolahan is one of the most talked about figures in Irish soccer. His at times mesmerizing displays for Norwich, were long ignored by Trappatoni. The perception seemed to be that Hoolahan was not suited to the hard graft and defensive duties expected of a central midfielder under the Italian's rigid 4-4-2 system. His second cap only came last November in a loss to Greece. Recently the former Shelbourne man has seen more regular game time under Trappatoni. He featured in 2 of the more recent games, impressing in the wins over Georgia and the Faroe Islands. In the seven goals scored in the two games, he played a key role in three of them by my count, also showing he was capable of some of the defensive duties expected of him. While he has yet to be tested against high quality opposition I for one would be very comfortable with him starting alongside James McCarthy against either Sweden or Germany should that happen. James McClean makes up my midfield, on the left hand side, while he has struggled somewhat this year as defenders have got to know him better he can still offer something out wide and I imagine Irish fans would certainly prefer him on the wings over the likes of Simon Cox or Jonathan Walters (with all due respect, they are strikers not wingers), I think he can work on certain areas of his game like his crossing but he is still quite young and it should improve with more game time.

Up front it was really no contest. While a lot of strikers have left the League of Ireland to ply their trade abroad (Conor Sammon, Paddy Madden, Eoin Doyle, Daryl Murphy, Richie Foran, Dave Mooney, Roy O'Donovan and Graham Cummins to name a few!) I think these two are the most accomplished strikers of all them. Long's gametime at Cork City was brief (he was only 18 at the times and had many established and good League of Ireland strikers like John O'Flynn, Neale Fenn and Kevin Doyle ahead of him!) but he was certainly a talented player as we have over the last few years with Reading and West Brom. He finished the season with 11 goals for West Brom and capped off the season with a superb header in the draw against England at Wembley. As he continues I think he will become a mainstay in the Irish team and may end up replacing Robbie Keane in the goal scoring department. His former team mate Kevin Doyle has had a tough time in the last year, getting relegated again with Wolves and on the back of poor club form (9 goals in 51 games this year) has fallen out of Trappatoni's plans and unless he can find himself a new club in either the Premier League or more likely the Championship, he risks not being included in the squad for the foreseeable future. He has had a decent international career with Ireland, which is one of the main reasons for his inclusion.

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