As the Championship season begins this weekend let’s take a look at five Irish players who could have an excellent campaign in one of Europe’s most competitive divisions.
1) Sean Maguire
Hugely disappointing for the Preston man that he is set to miss the first couple of months of the Championship campaign thanks to a hamstring injury, but regardless Maguire is still the man to watch from an Irish perspective.
He managed nine goals in 17 league games for North End last season despite, again, being frequently struck down by injury and his excellent pre-season form suggests that even with missing eight weeks Maguire could be one of the league’s top marksmen this campaign.
Preston have continued to add to their Irish contingency and Maguire’s injury may open up a spot for fellow international Graham Burke, but it’s undoubtedly the Cork City man who could be key to a playoff push for the Deepdale side.
2) John Egan
One of the best defenders in the division last season former Brentford captain John Egan made the move to fellow Championship side Sheffield United this Summer, as the Blades look to build upon their 10th place finish in 17/18.
United have bought well this season and the signing of Egan shows real ambition on their behalf. A number of other championship clubs had shown interest in Egan, who’s Brentford side kept an impressive 15 clean sheets last season.
Egan’s confidence on the ball and command of his defence will be a huge boost to the Bramall Lane side, as he looks to break into the Irish starting eleven as well as help Sheffield United become one of the league’s contenders again.
3) Conor Shaughnessy
An injury-stricken end to what turned out to be a disappointing campaign for Shaughnessy and Leeds United, the Irish U-21 international is fit again and could end up being a big part of Bielsa’s plans at Elland Road.
Shaughnessy started back training with the Leeds United first team this week and with The Whites’ centre-back options currently looking like just Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper, Bielsa’s preferred three at the back might see him get another chance at the heart of the defence
Despite being a natural midfielder he played at the back under Thomas Christiansen and had been impressing before his unfortunate injury in January.
Still only 22-years of age, Shaughnessy’s versatility and ability on the ball could lead to him having a big season as Leeds United look to get back to the big time.
4) Ryan Manning
Much had been made about QPR’s Ryan Manning when he broke into the first team at Loftus Road a couple of seasons ago, but despite 15 appearances last campaign, the former Galway United man could be set for a big year.
Manning has appeared (and scored) in a number of Rangers’ pre-season games this Summer and with the club under a transfer embargo, he may find first-team opportunities a lot easier to come by in what could be a tough season for the London club.
The 22-year old is good on the ball and is not afraid to put his foot in where it hurts – an asset that could come invaluable should QPR see themselves near the wrong end of the table.
5) Conor Hourihane
A key cog in an Aston Villa side that came so close to promotion last season, Hourihane as one of the squad’s most experienced heads and he will have to step up and deliver once again if his side stand any chance of a return to the Premier League.
Hourihane sat back last season as his teammate Jack Grealish bagged most of the headlines but his importance to the side is evident whenever the former Barnsley man features.
Eleven goals last season and an impressive pre-season hattrick against Walsall, if Hourihane can continue his excellent performances and add a few more goals then it could be a more promising season at Villa Park than most had initially expected.