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Irish Footballers in Italy: A 2022-23 Season Review

Irish Footballers in Italy: A 2022-23 Season Review
By John Dodge Updated
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In relative terms, the summer of 2022 saw an exodus of Irish footballers to Italy. Not all to Serie A of course – where only 3 Irishmen had ever played before – but several Irish players left Ireland and our neighbours to try their luck in the home of Calcio. They’ve had mixed fortunes and we’ll go through them all here.

Festy Ebesole

The man from Enniscorthy is still only 20 but had established himself in the Derby County team before moving to Udinese last summer. Festy made his Serie A debut off the bench in the San Siro last August in Udinese’s 4-2 defeat to Milan.  He continued to play sporadically from the bench before earning his first start in a 0-0 draw away to Atalanta in March. He ended the season with 4 starts and a total of 17 Serie A appearances. He had a brilliant assist in Udinese's match against Sampdoria in May.

He remains part of the Ireland U21 squad.

James Abankwah

Announced early last year, Abankwah joined Udinese from St Patrick’s Athletic midway through the 2022 League of Ireland season after completing his Leaving Certificate. Still only 19, he has been in 35 of the 38 Udinese matchday squads this year. His Serie A debut came in the final few minutes of their defeat to Bologna in April, becoming only the second player to play Serie A and LOI football – Luther Blissett was the first. He made his first start in the last game of the year against Juventus. Abankwah has played 13 times for Udinese’s Primavera team (elite under 19s) and captained the Ireland under 19s this season.


Niamh Farrelly

Dubliner Farrelly left Glasgow City for Parma last summer. The former Peamount midfielder becoming the first woman to play in Serie A since Louise Quinn’s spell with Fiorentina. Farrelly played 20 times, including 14 starts, but unfortunately her Parma team was relegated to Serie B at the end of the season. Her only goal this season was a cracker to be fair.

Aaron Connolly

The man from Galway joined Serie B side Venezia in a high profile loan deal at the start of the Italian season. Connolly came off the bench three times before starting twice in mid-September. They were to be his last game involvements. Despite not being involved at club level, Connolly played for the Ireland under 21s in their play offs last year but his time in Italy was done. In January, Venezia officially cut the loan deal short and Brighton sent him to Hull City where he scored twice in 5 games before an injury cut short a horrible 2022-23 season for him.

Liam Kerrigan


A move from UCD to Serie B for the Sligo winger came on the back of some stellar performances for Ireland under 21s. Kerrigan started well for Como, scoring on his debut in a 2-2 draw with Pisa. Kerrigan would only play 3 more times (2 starts) before suffering a season-ending injury on the training ground. Kerrigan was back training for Como towards the end of the season and will hope for better luck next year.


He featured on Football Focus discussing his most famous teammate, Cesc Fabregas.

Kevin Zefi

The former Shamrock Rovers winger was the first from this batch of young Irish players to move to Italy when he made the switch to Inter Milan in 2021. This season he has continue to play mostly for the under-18 side where he scored 16 goals in 13 league games! He made a further 6 sub appearances for the Primavera (u19) side. Zefi played in 4 of Inter’s UEFA Youth League games this season. Now 18, Zefi will be hoping to move up the ranks soon.

Cathal Heffernan

The Cork defender with the Olympian parents left Cork City for Milan last summer. He’s been pretty much ever=present in the Milan under 18 side and even captained the side for a spell. He scored two goals in 26 games. Heffernan was spotted training with the senior squad during the season but only made one appearance for the under 19 Primavera side.


John Ryan

The second ex-UCD player to move to Italy switched Belfield for Sassuolo last summer. The full back started the season with the under 18s but moved up to the Primavera team quickly enough and ended with 16 starts for a Sassuolo that finished 4th in their league race ahead of Juventus, Roma and Inter.

Ed McJannet

In the January window, English-born McJannet joined the Irish under 19 group playing in Italy when he switched Luton Town for Lecce. The midfielder would end up with 18 appearances for the Primavera team, and was a regular starter by the end of the season.

And that's your lot. Two men played in the same team (not on the pitch at the same time, annoyingly!) for the first time ever when Abankwah made his debut in April. Festy looks best placed to make a step up next year. We had a tonne of players play at under 19 level while Zefi scored for fun at the youngest age group.  Farrelly appears to have played well and hopefully she's back in Serie A soon.  There's rumours of more LOI academy talent making their way to Italy soon too and we'll keep you updated on all the comings and goings.

SEE ALSO: How The Girls In Green Fared In England This Season

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