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Ranking The Top 10 Irish Footballers Playing In The Championship

Ranking The Top 10 Irish Footballers Playing In The Championship
By Barry Arnold
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The Premier League is not the only thing to get excited about this weekend as the Championship returns tonight as Brighton host Nottingham Forest.

The quality of the English second-tier has received the plaudits it deserves in recent years and with clubs like Forest, Leeds and Blackburn, it has plenty of fans in this country.

A huge amount of Irish talent play in the division, with several earning call-ups for the Republic of Ireland in recent years.

Here we rank the top 10 Irish players ahead of the 2015/16 season. While players like Stephen Quinn, Cyrus Christie and Alex Pearce are among an abundance of Irish talent lighting up England's second division this year, they just about miss out on our top 10.

10. Alan Judge - Brentford

The Brentford winger has a sweet right-foot and showcased plenty of his attacking prowess during The Bee's fifth-placed campaign last season. The 27-year-old is unlucky to play in a position where Ireland have a number of options, but if he can continue last season's form he can earn himself a first senior cap.

9. Eoin Doyle - Cardiff City

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The 27-year-old Dubliner has found his feet since leaving Sligo Rovers in 2011. He moved to Cardiff in January after scoring 21 goals in 26 appearances for League One side Chesterfield. Doyle managed five more for Cardiff but should now have adapted to Championship level and can return to his best form this season.

8. Shane Duffy - Blackburn Rovers

Duffy has been mooted as a huge prospect for Ireland for a number of years. He's still only 23 and left Everton last year to join Blackburn and gain much needed first-team experience. The 6 ft 4 centre-half could be the solution to Ireland's lack of defensive depth if he can kick on from his 22 appearances last season.

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7. Anthony Pilkington - Cardiff City

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The winger's Premier League performances for Norwich earned him a string of Ireland call-ups. While Pilkington hasn't returned to that form, if he can avoid injury this campaign he can fight for promotion with Cardiff. His creativity and delivery are his strongest assets, both from set pieces and in-play.

6. David McGoldrick - Ipswich Town

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Although he had to play second-fiddle to another Irish striker last season, David McGoldrick has pace, trickery and scores goals. He managed 16 goals in 34 appearances the season before last and has performed admirably in the early stages of his Ireland career.

5. Richard Keogh - Derby County

Derby captain Keogh will be at the heart The Rams promotion push this season. He was named player of the year at each of his last three clubs and earned a place in the 2014/15 Championship team of the season. This year, Derby's promotion attempt will build from the foundation of an Irish central defensive partnership of Keogh and Alex Pearce.

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4. David Meyler - Hull City

After a promising early career was Meyler suffered a series of injuries but has now overcome those problems. The combative midfielder was one of The Tiger's most consistent performers despite their relegation from the Premier League last season. The 26-year-old also started the FA Cup Final against Arsenal the year before.

3. Jeff Hendrick - Derby County

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The 23-year-old is yet to show his best form for Ireland but has bags of potential and should prove it this season in a strong-looking Derby side. Despite an injury-hit campaign, Hendrick managed seven goals last season and he should cement a place in the Irish team with a good club performance this year for one of the Championship's best footballing teams.

2. Kieren Westwood - Sheffield Wednesday

Westwood was the best goalkeeper in The Championship last season and justified it with his place in the team of the year. Despite appearing out of favour with Martin O'Neill, Westwood is a great shot-stopper and he was integral for keeping Sheffield Wednesday within touching distance of the play-offs last season.

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1. Daryl Murphy - Ipswich Town

Last season's Championship top scorer with 28 league goals. The 32-year-old has hit a purple patch towards the end of his career and to have his best goalscoring season. The Waterford native will be essential to Mick McCarthy's side improving upon last season's sixth place finish. He also impressed in his starting spot for Ireland in their 1-1 draw with Scotland in June.

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