Football

Premier League Opening Round Highlights Grim Trend For Irish Football

Premier League Opening Round Highlights Grim Trend For Irish Football

The first match day squad of a Premier League game is a fairly good indicator of the players a manager will use over the course of a season. Barring injuries and suspensions it is the group of players that the manager has most faith in heading into the campaign, and judging by the Irish players used for the first round of Premier League fixtures over the weekend, it does not bode well for the future of Irish football.

A total of eight Irish players featured in the ten opening games between Friday and Sunday, with two unused substitutes. Looking back over the past 24 Premier League seasons (since the number of teams was reduced to 20),  this number represents an all time low, with the trend showing that there is a clear decrease in numbers over the past 24 seasons.

Perhaps equally as worrying is that over the past two opening days of the season there hasn't even been a great representation of Irish talent on the benches of Premier League clubs. There were just two Irishmen on the bench for the first game of the season both this term and last term.

When we look back to the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons there is a much healthier representation of our country in England's top flight, with 19 and 22 players featuring on the opening day respectively and although the number has jumped up and down over the years this season's offering represents the fewest Irishmen to feature on an opening day since the league was cut to 20 teams.

Here is a breakdown of all of the Irish players to feature for Premier League clubs on the opening day of the season for the last nine seasons:

2018/19 Opening day: 8 players featured

  • Jeff Hendrick
  • Stephen Ward
  • Declan Rice
  • Ciaran Clark
  • Cyrus Christie
  • Shane Duffy
  • Matt Doherty
  • Seamus Coleman
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Jonathan Walters and Greg Cunningham were unused subs.

2017/18 Opening day: 10 players featured

  • Shane Duffy
  • James McClean
  • Harry Arter
  • Stephen Ward
  • Robbie Brady
  • Declan Rice
  • Rob Eliot
  • Ciaran Clark
  • Walters
  • Hendrick

Shane Long & Kevin Long were unused subs.

2016/17 Opening day: 11 players featured

  • John O'Shea
  • Shane Long
  • Shay Given
  • Glenn Whelan
  • Jon Walters
  • James McCarthy
  • Damien Delaney
  • James McClean
  • Stephen Ward
  • David Meyler
  • Harry Arter
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Darren Randolph was an unused sub.

2015/16 Opening day: 11 players featured

  • Damien Delaney
  • Robbie Brady
  • Wes Hoolahan
  • Seamus Coleman
  • James McCarthy
  • Ciaran Clark
  • Eunan O'Kane
  • James McClean
  • Shane Long
  • Glenn Whelan
  • Jonathan Walters

John O'Shea was an unused sub.

2014/15 Opening day: 14 players featured

  • Damien Delaney
  • Joey O'Brien
  • John O'Shea
  • Marc Wilson
  • Glenn Whelan
  • Stephen Ireland
  • Richard Dunne
  • Alex Bruce
  • David Meyler
  • Paul McShane
  • Stephen Quinn
  • Aiden McGeady
  • Seamus Coleman
  • James McCarthy
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Paddy McCarthy, Jonathan Walters, Ciaran Clark, Shay Given, Brian Murphy, Robbie Brady, Rob Eliot & Kevin Long were all unused subs.

2013/14 Opening day: 13 players featured

  • Joey O'Brien
  • Shane Long
  • John O'Shea
  • Damien Duff
  • Seamus Coleman
  • Wes Hoolahan
  • Ciaran Clark
  • Glenn Whelan
  • Marc Wilson
  • Jonathan Walters
  • Robbie Brady
  • David Meyler
  • Damien Delaney

Alex Bruce and Paul McShane were unused subs.

2012/13 Opening day: 22 Irish players featured

  • Joey O'Brien
  • Shay Given
  • Ciaran Clark
  • Stephen Ireland
  • Steven Reid
  • Shane Long
  • Alex Pearce
  • Ian Harte
  • Noel Hunt
  • Rory Delap
  • Jonathon Walters
  • Marc Wilson
  • Glenn Whelan
  • Damien Duff
  • Anthony Pilkington
  • Wes Hoolahan
  • David Meyler
  • Seamus Coleman
  • Darron Gibson
  • James McCarthy
  • John O'Shea
  • James McClean
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Kieren Westwood, Stephen Kelly, Brian Murphy, Graham Burke and Stephen Henderson were all unused subs.

2011/12 Opening day: 19 players featured

  • Leon Best
  • Connor Sammon
  • James McCarthy
  • Wes Hoolahan
  • Anthony Pilkington
  • Damien Duff
  • Shay Given
  • Richard Dunne
  • Ciaran Clark
  • Kevin Foley
  • Stephen Ward
  • Stephen Hunt
  • Kevin Doyle
  • Steven Reid
  • Shane Long
  • Simon Cox
  • Marc Wilson
  • Rory Delap
  • Glenn Whelan

Brian Murphy, Kieren Westwood, Stephen Kelly and Stephen Ireland were unused subs.

2010/11 Opening day: 13 players featured

  • Simon Cox
  • Rory Delap
  • Glenn Whelan
  • Andy Keogh
  • James McCarthy
  • Stephen Carr
  • Keith Fahey
  • Damien Duff
  • Stephen Kelly
  • Ciaran Clark
  • Richard Dunne
  • Robbie Keane
  • John O'Shea
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Shay Given, Steven Reid, Keith Andrews and Andy O'Brien were unused subs.

Here is a table of all the Irish players to feature on the opening day starting from when the Premier League first became a 20 team league in the 1995/96 season:

1995/96: 12
1996/97: 14
1997/98: 13
1998/99: 11
1999/2000: 14
2000/01: 18
2001/02: 14
2002/03: 19
2003/04: 15
2004/05: 14
2005/06: 16
2006/07: 17
2007/08: 17
2008/09: 15
2009/10: 19
2010/11: 13
2011/12: 19
2012/13: 22
2013/14: 13
2014/15: 14
2015/16: 11
2016/17: 11
2017/18: 1o
2018/19: 8

Though its hard to pin down exactly why the Irish aren't as well represented in the PL anymore,  the stats certainly make for grim reading. On average Ireland have had 15 players to feature on the opening day of the Premier League with the 2018/19 season's first round almost halving the average.

And with Declan Rice the only player on that list that could realistically be described as a youngster it begs the question; where has all the talent gone?

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Eoin Lyons

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