We live in an age where oxygen for the Premier League reserve player at senior level is becoming increasingly starved. But encouraging from an Irish perspective, nevertheless, are a large number of our own lads who are at least claiming a stake for selection on the back of their performances in Premier League 2.
Here are an eleven of Irish would-be prospects that we can realistically hope to see forging a career for themselves in the not too distant future.
Caoimhín Kelleher - GK
The Liverpool youngster has already flirted with not only the senior matchday squad but has also been part of Martin O'Neill and Mick McCarthy's international squads. As of yet, we've yet to see the Cork man make his bow for either, but surely it's just a matter of time for the former Ringmahon Ranger.
Lee O'Connor - RB
Waterford native and Manchester United defender O'Connor is highly thought of at Old Trafford - just today he has been added to United's Champions League squad for next Tuesday's do or die tie with Barcelona at the Nou Camp. A regular for Nicky Butt's United U-23 side, McCarthy has run his over Ireland's U-19 captain.
Aaron O'Driscoll - CB
Southampton U-23's have raced to the top of the second-tier of Premier League 2 on the back of a very resolute defence. 20-year-old O'Driscoll, son of former St Pats legend Maurice, has stood out at centre-half in Radhi Jaidi's side.
Tom O'Connor - CB
Alongside O'Driscoll slots in club teammate Tom O'Connor. The Kilkenny teenager captained the south-coast outfit's U-19 side last season and has the versatility to play as a shield in front of the back four also. Has been a regular in Tom Mohan's U-19 international side also.
Tyreke Wilson - LB
The former Cherry Orchard youngster would have hoped for more game-time for Manchester City's reserve side this season, but by Christ, Ireland has a player playing for Man City and we'll big him up if we want to. The Dubliner was involved in Pep Guardiola's pre-season plans.
Conor Coventry - CM
— West Ham United (@WestHam) March 25, 2019
A reluctant inclusion given our recent history with English born defensive midfielders playing for West Ham, but Coventry looks an excellent prospect at U-23 level and on a number of occasions has found himself in Manuel Pellegrini's senior matchday squads. Has yet to make his Premier League bow, but did play a full half for the Hammers in their 8-0 thumping of Macclesfield in the EFL Cup earlier this year.
Jack Clarke - CM
Good to be back🙌🏼 pic.twitter.com/b6Id41sJ9d
— Jack Clarke (@Jack_Clarke10) July 14, 2018
Highly thought of at Aston Villa is Birmingham-born Jack Clarke. He has chipped in with five assists this season for last year's Premier League Cup champions with Keven MacDonald's side only three points off leaders Southampton in Group 2. Hasn't featured in an Irish shirt since his sole U-18 appearance at the back end of 2016 against Germany, but he may be one for McCarthy and co to keep an eye on.
Josh Barrett - RW
— josh barrett (@10Joshbarrett) March 20, 2019
Another who hasn't pulled on an Irish jersey for a while, Reading playmaker Barrett has scored 6 goals this Premier League 2 season. Oxford by birth, but having represented Ireland at 17s, 18s, 19s and 21s level, he fits into the same bracket as the aforementioned Clarke. Spent time this year at National League side Aldershot Town on loan.
Jonathan Afolabi - LW
Another of the Irish contingent at Southampton, Afolabi has taken on the torch that senior break-out star Michael Obafemi once held. The Dubliner played a pivotal role in the recent successful Euro qualification campaign enjoyed by Tom Mohan's U-19s and has scored four goals for Southampton in Premier League 2 this season.
Adam Idah - ST
Norwich City frontman Idah tops the Premier League 2 scoring charts at the moment, having bagged himself 12 goals in 16 appearances for the Canaries this campaign. A natural-born goalscorer, Idah bagged a brace on his Irish U-21 debut last month against Luxembourg in Tallaght. The worry would be his path to the club first team action might be made more difficult should Norwich gain promotion to the Premier League, but his pace and power will surely be a huge asset for us going forward.
Aaron Connolly - ST
— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) January 28, 2019
So scorching hot was the Galway man's early season form for Brighton's U-23s that League One title chasers Luton Town acquired his services on loan. Unfortunately for the former Mervue United youngster, his time at Kenilworth Road has been somewhat on a non-starter due to a hamstring injury. But having bagged 11 goals in 11 U-23 games for the Seagulls earlier this season, Connolly is hotly tipped to become a star.