Football

Three Young Players Gave Irish Fans Plenty To Be Excited About Over Christmas

Three Young Players Gave Irish Fans Plenty To Be Excited About Over Christmas

The Christmas period of fixtures was an especially exciting one for the progression of young Irish footballers.

Three in particular, at Championship clubs, stood out - Reading's Liam Kelly, QPR's Ryan Manning and Connor Ronan of Wolves.

The 21-year-old Kelly made his ninth Championship appearance of the season for high-flying Reading on Monday, coming on as a substituted after 66 minutes against Bristol City.

Reading were 2-0 down when Kelly entered the game - they would end up winning 3-2 with Kelly being a major factor in the comeback.

Kelly's first goal for the club, six minutes after entering the game, cut the deficit to the minimum. In the 86th minute, Kelly set up the equaliser for Yann Kermorgant. The Frenchman would score the winner two minutes into injury time.

After the game, Reading manager Jaap Stam credited Kelly with changing the game.

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Liam Kelly made a difference when he came on; in his movement, in possession and also scoring that goal. The goal gave them a bit of discomfort and gave us a boost after the goal they scored.

The Bristol City game came just three days after Kelly signed a new contract which will keep him at the Madejski until 2019.

It's not the first time Stam has praised Kelly in recent weeks. Last month, the Dutchman described Kelly's passing and technique as 'world class'.

Liam is a quality player. We’ve seen him throughout the whole season. He is a player who has great skills, he’s very comfortable on the ball and can go past players as well.

His passing, his technique is world class - I can say that. You could see it against Leeds and again at Blackburn.

Liam’s a player who can bring something extra to the team. With his passing but also in keeping the ball. He’s not the biggest but he’s quite strong on the ball and can turn away from players. If you can do that then suddenly you can create a two on one or three on two situation. That gives the opposition a decision to make and it makes it easier for you to play.

Connor Ronan is another prospect who blossomed over Christmas. The 18-year made his debut for Wolves, coming on as a sub against Nottingham Forest on December 17th. He then made his first start for the club in a 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on Monday. That was a game which saw Wolves fans sing 'There's only one Connor Ronan'.

Like Kelly, Ronan also recently signed a new contract which will keep him tied to Wolves until 2019.

After Monday's game, Paul Lambert was hugely positive about what he saw from the young attacking midfielder.

Connor Ronan's was as good as debut as I've seen from a young player.

I trust him. I've got no fear about playing him. It took me a millisecond to see how good he was.

Ryan Manning, who joined QPR from Galway United two years ago, made his debut for the club in a 2-1 win against Wolves on New Year's Eve. He would against start two days later in another 2-1 win against Ipswich.

Following the game against Wolves, QPR manager Ian Holloway described Manning's debut as 'outstanding'.

I think Ryan Manning was absolutely outstanding and epitomised what my QPR was before and what I want it to be in the future.

He epitomised what I’m all about. He showed heart, fight – that’s also as good a debut as I’ve seen. And I thought the lads really helped him out.

PJ Browne
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