Barry Landy of the Emerald Exiles brings us his Irish abroad team of the season.
So with Everton failing to break the Champions League mould this season, Irish involvement in the group stages next season won’t extend beyond Celtic’s Anthony Stokes, and that’s if they qualify. Never a gimme. But all is not lost. Dotted around the Premier League, Football League and beyond this year, Irish players have played key roles in some stellar seasons for their respective clubs.
Hardly a world beating selection by any measure, our Balls.ie selection celebrates the very best of Irish footballers in Britain and beyond in 2013/14. Bound to court controversy, have we missed anyone you would have included? Almost certainly. Should this esteemed squad have been announced in a blaze of media publicity at a car factoy in Luton? Most definitely.
Without further ado, here’s our Irish Team of the Season.
Image: Barry Downes
David Forde – Ireland’s current first choice stopper, Forde’s Millwall have endured a torrid season although it ended in them securing their Championship safety before the final day drama ultimately sent Doncaster down. For Forde though there’s been personal triumph with the former Derry City man landing the club’s Player of the Season gong. Despite enduring travails in an Ireland shirt too this term, he’s never let his country down.
The fact that Shay Given saw very little action this season and Keiren Westwood and Rob Elliot even fewer, there wasn’t too much competition for our starting spot between the posts.
Seamus Coleman – This one is fairly self-explanatory but let’s remind ourselves about what made Seamus so special this season. His seven goals have certainly helped as the Donegal man has becoming one of the Everton’s biggest attacking threats and arguably the very best marauding full back in the Premier League. When Seamie left Santi Cazorla bamboozled as Everton swept aside Arsenal at Goodison in April, it seemed confirmation if needed that he had arrived to the next level.
Part of a not too shabby Toffees defence too (only Chelsea and Man City conceded less), the defender who in totally-original-fact-news only cost £60,000 from Sligo Rovers, was voted in the PFA Team of the Year.
Damien Delaney – He’ll be remembered for helping to de-rail Liverpool’s title change with that admittedly heavily deflect goal last week but Delaney was the rock between the Crystal Palace defence that when Tony Pulis arrived contrived to concede…very few goals. Just a year ago, the Corkman was in tears after Palace’s playoff triumph at Wembley. He had intended to quit the game to concentrate on running triathlons. Thankfully he didn’t and made a competitive international debut vs Germany in October.
Richard Keogh – At the time of going to publication, Keogh’s season could be about to get even better with a Championship playoff final against QPR to come on May 24th. But to date, it’s been more than adequate. Alongside other Irish international Connor Sammon (slightly less so) and Jeff Hendrick, Keogh has spearheaded Derby’s promotion push under Steve McClaren. Part of Martin O’Neill’s extended Ireland squad for the summer friendlies, he’ll be busy for the next ten days at least. Against QPR, he’ll to go head to head with Richie Dunne. We’re not so sure the Dubliner is top anymore.
Patrick Kohlmann – Who? We’re glad you asked. Admittedly, Ireland’s left back options have been sparse since Ian Harte was cast aside by Trap many moons ago. Kevin Kilbane filled in admirably, as have Ciaran Clark and Marc Wilson in recent times. None of them are left full backs though. Kohlmann is. A former Ireland Under 21 international and Borussia Dortmund academy graduate, Kohlmann has starred at left back for Union Berlin in the Bundesliga 2 this term.
A wing back more than anything, the 31 year old is a genuine weapon going forward and has notched two goals in the season just ended.
James McCarthy – In a nutshell, £13 million very well spent. Widely acclaimed as one of the midfield performers of the season, James McCarthy has slotted into life towards the top end of the Premier League with ease this year. Nine minutes into his 45th club appearance of a long season, McCarthy scored his first goal in Everton blue to help secure the Merseyside clubs place in next year’s Europa League.
He continues to fulfil his teenage promise, becoming a key player for both club and country over the past twelve months. Everton got £27 million for Maruaone Fellaini, bought McCarthy and pocketed a huge profit. Deal of the century.
Barry Maguire – He sounds familiar but you can’t quite place him. He’s that Dutch-Irish guy who scored against Celtic in the Europa League that time and then it looked like he was going to be called up for Ireland but wasn’t. Yes! Anyway, after rejoining boyhood club Den Bosch in the Dutch second tier this season, Maguire has rediscovered fitness and the kind of form that saw him courted by Ireland, the Oranje and several top clubs.
Hands down their best player, a playoff defeat at the weekend ended their promotion hopes however.
Liam Miller – Off the radar of most, since leaving Britain behind for Australia, Miller has had mixed results Down Under. An uninspiring spell at Perth Glory, where despite being regarded among the A-League’s best he won nothing in an underperforming side, has been followed by a move to Brisbane Roar. There he’s been a virtual ever-present as Roar, well, roared to the A-League Premiership and Championship.
He scored some decent goals along the way, notably finishing off a passing move that Barcelona or eh, Dundalk would be proud of.
Anthony Stokes – Scoring goals in the Scottish Premiership and Football League is one thing, doing it in the Premier League is quite another. Anthony Stokes, when he’s not getting involved with Elvis impersonators, will tell you that. When Gary Hooper took the plunge to leave Celtic behind for Norwich, Stokes saw an opportunity to become the club’s main goalscorer and has taken it with both hands and boots. Or something.
21 goals in al competitions is a decent start for a player who despite being around for seemingly forever, is only 25. If he can court the attentions of Martin O’Neill rather than controversy, he could be very useful.
Andy Reid – Doing the research for this piece, this writer pondered ‘I’m sure Andy Reid scored a decent goal or two this season.’ For one or two, read loads. He’s plundered ten goals this season for Nottingham Forest and it’s no coincidence that when he got injured in the spring, Forest’s promotion charge fell to pieces. The People’s Choice, Reid’s return to the Ireland setup was met with universal praise. That’s rarity. It’s just a shame a Premier League return grows more unlikely.
Shane Long – Shane Long did the business for two clubs this season. Such was his form for West Brom prior to Christmas, it came as a shock to most that they were so willing to sell him in January. Sell him they did and their season ended in a real relegation scrap. His first goal against Villa in November was a thing of beauty.
For Hull, he’s netted four goal as his partnership with Nikica Jelavic has flourished. He can’t finish like Robbie Keane and he’s scored the same amount of goals as Seamus Coleman this year, so he hasn’t got it all at this level. But he’s got enough and that’ll do for us Jim.