Five players who could break into Martin O’Neill’s Ireland squad this season

by Patrick Mills

During the Republic of Ireland’s mildly successful Euro 2016 campaign, positive performances from the likes of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick gave fans some hope that the next decade of supporting their nation won’t be filled with quiet so much disappointment as the last.

While Brady and Hendrick won’t be enough to guarantee that, there are a number of players in the Championship making good progress with their ambitions of representing the Boys in Green.

 

Callum O’Dowda

English-born O’Dowda is the only player on this list to have featured for Martin O’Neill’s side, having impressed in a cameo appearance off the bench against Hungary prior to Euro 2016.

The 21-year-old had been making a name for himself at boyhood club Oxford United until this summer when championship side Bristol City brought in the tricky winger for around £1.25 million to help mount their push for the playoffs.

John Egan

Egan left Cork to join Sunderland in 2011 and quickly cemented his place as a regular in the club’s U21 side.

However, injuries halted his progression on Wearside and the centre back failed to make a senior appearance for the first team before signing for League One side Gillingham in 2014.

Egan went on to establish himself as one of the best performers in the division, earning a place in the team of the season last term.

This summer has seen the 23-year-old move up a level to join Brentford and given his impressive displays early on, the former U21 international may well make his bow for the Ireland senior team in the months ahead.

 

Jack Byrne

At just 20, Byrne has already made quite a name for himself over the last couple of years.

The industrious midfielder left Dublin to join Manchester City’s youth set-up at the age of 15 and went on to become a favourite of Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, who was his coach in the Elite Development Squad at the Etihad Stadium.

Byrne enjoyed a loan spell at Dutch side SC Cambuur last season and has again been farmed out for the current campaign to championship strugglers Blackburn Rovers.

If he can manage to impress at Ewood Park this season, it would be no surprise to see Byrne join fellow St.Kevins exports Brady and Hendrick in becoming a full international.

Conor Hourihane

Following a disappointing spell at Sunderland as a youngster, Hourihane linked up with childhood hero Roy Keane at Ipswich in 2010.

But having failed to make an appearance for the Tractor Boys, he was once again on the move a year later, this time to League Two Plymouth Argyle.

Hourihane, originally from Bandon in County Cork, finally managed to kick-start his career in the West Country before leaving to join Barnsley in 2014.

There, he was an integral part of their promotion to the Championship last season where he will be hoping to impress sufficiently to earn his first international cap during the upcoming qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

 

Scott Hogan

Though he grew up in Salford, Hogan qualifies for the Republic of Ireland through his grandparents.

The 24-year old-striker scored seven goals in the final four Championship games for Brentford last season and has already netted this term as well.

The former Rochdale man recently stated his ambition to score 30 goals for the Bees this season.

Should he achieve this, Martin O’Neill will find it impossible not to reward him with an international debut.

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