As most European leagues prepare for a period of relaxation over the winter months, most Irish players are set for an arduous month of non-stop game-time. This weekend marked the beginning of such tumult, but there were a few shining moments for our boys abroad.
Matt Doherty continued his brilliant form at Wolves, Shane Long came off the bench for Southampton to give them a spark against Watford, and in the Championship, Shaun Williams scored a goal of the season contender for Millwall.
Irish Player Ratings
Ciaran Clark continued his starring role at the heart of Newcastle United's defence at the weekend. The centre-half made eight clearances in total as the Magpies played out a 2-2 draw against champions Manchester City.
Aaron Connolly was back in the Brighton starting XI for their visit to Anfield. The teenager certainly put it up to Virgil van Dijk, but reflected on coming up against 'the best defender in the world', saying:
There was one point where I thought I was in and then he comes back and he's toed it back to his keeper and I'm just thinking, sometimes you have to appreciate you are playing against the best defender in the world.
To play against someone like that at 19 can only help. Obviously he's a brilliant player so it was tough but I thought I did OK.
In Southampton's 2-1 win over Watford, Michael Obafemi started and was subsequently replaced by Shane Long. Long missed two guilt-edged opportunities to secure the three points for the Saints, but was a constant nuisance to the Watford backline.
Both Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady started for Burnley at the weekend, but couldn't help the Clarets as they lost 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace. Both players received a '5' for their performances, with Brady finding it difficult against Patrick van Aanholt and Hendrick having a tendency to play things safe in the middle of the park.
Conor Hourihane started once again for Aston Villa as they drew 2-2 away to Manchester United. The midfielder was retained following a stellar display in Villa's win over Newcastle United on Monday night. The Corkman gave another assured performance alongside John McGinn and Douglas Luiz in the Villa midfield.
It's that man again - what a delivery from Conor Hourihane for Villa's second! 🤤🔥
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The Irish contingent at Sheffield United got another run-out away to Wolves. John Egan made his return to the Blades starting XI following his injury whilst on international duty. Enda Stevens and David McGoldrick both started as well, with Stevens putting in another all-action display at left wing-back. Callum Robinson also came on for goalscorer Lys Mousset, but couldn't give United the lead.
However, the star of the show was undoubtedly Matt Doherty. The marauding right wing-back got on the scoresheet again to equalise for Wolves, and topped it off with a classy gesture in his celebration, dedicating the goal to the daughter of former teammate Benik Afobe, who died on Friday.
In the Championship, Shaun Williams' goal for Millwall against Birmingham City was undoubtedly a highlight. The Dubliner played in the centre of the park alongside Ireland U21 captain Jayson Molumby. The side were captained by former Ireland international Alex Pearce, with Aiden O'Brien coming off the bench for the Lions.
— JP (@JPMillwall) November 30, 2019
James Collins cut a frustrated figure up front for Luton on Saturday, with the striker unable to help his side go down 7-0 away to Brentford.
Elsewhere, in QPR's 1-1 draw away to Derby County, Ryan Manning put in a solid performance at left-back, dovetailing excellently with winger Eberechi Eze and frustrating opposite number Jayden Bogle. Jason Knight came on for a brief cameo for Derby, replacing Jack Marriott.
Darragh Lenihan captained Blackburn Rovers to a 2-1 win away to Stoke City, inflicting the first defeat of the Michael O'Neill era at the Bet365 Stadium. The Meathman was man of the match according to WhoScored, winning a staggering 12 aerial duels. James McClean and Stephen Ward started for the Potters, with McClean's renaissance under O'Neill continuing, putting in another all-action display. Scott Hogan also got a brief run-out for Stoke, however he was unable to do much.
In the Friday kick-off, Cyrus Christie made a ten-minute appearance as Fulham looked to secure a 2-1 win against Swansea City.
There was also FA Cup action throughout the English football pyramid. On Friday, Newport County ran out 1-0 winners over Maldon & Tiptree, with the goal scored by none other than Padraig Amond. Ireland international Kieran O'Hara kept a clean sheet for Burton Albion as they got through their tie 1-0 away to Oldham Athletic.
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Midfielder Mark Byrne got on the scoresheet for Gillingham as they managed a 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers. Former Shelbourne and Bohemians striker Paddy Madden was sprung off the bench to score the winner for Fleetwood Town in their 2-1 win away to Crawley Town.
Up in Scotland, former St Patrick's Athletic left-back Jake Carroll got a goal in Motherwell's 4-0 win at home to St Johnstone. A trio of Glenn Whelan, Aidy White and Jake Mulraney all played for Hearts against Rangers, yet were unable to stop the Gers running out as 5-0 winners.