Each and every one of them will hope that this will be their chance to shine and their opportunity to fulfill their promise. And although plans and projections often don’t pan out as expected, the fresh optimism in the air allows us the occasion to pick out three Irish players who look ready to shine over the next 12 months.
Being included in the starting line-up a meagre five times for Norwich City so far this season is certainly not the best omen that Wes Hoolahan’s professional career is about to sky-rocket any time soon, but a smart move away from Carrow Road might just allow the Dubliner to grow in confidence and ability ahead of Ireland’s next international against Serbia in March.
At 31 years of age, time is not on Hoolahan’s side and yet there is still a great deal for Hoolahan to feel positive about with recent reports that Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has submitted an offer to the Canaries in an effort to lure the Irish man away to greener pastures.
And it’s no wonder why Villa have come enquiring. In Norwich’s narrow 1-0 loss to Manchester United towards the end of December, the former Shelbourne star put in a great effort to cause a few headaches for the Red Devils’ back-line by jinking and dribbling his way into some nice positions to feed team-mates as well as testing David de Gea himself. And had luck been on his side, he could have even grabbed a goal or an assist to remember in front of the home fans.
Chris Hughton may not want Hoolahan to depart after seeing him impress that day, but he certainly shouldn’t blame the veteran for seeking more regular football after leaving him on the bench far too often this campaign.
Making a huge impact on the tail end of 2013 was one of Ireland’s brightest talents of the modern era. Smashing home five league goals to date, Seamus Coleman has grown tremendously in confidence over the past few months and looks set to continue to cause problems up and down Everton’s right flank until the end of the season – provided all stays well on the fitness front.
His recent goal in FA Cup action against promotion-chasing Championship outfit Queens Park Rangers underlines just how keen he is to ensure this good spell of form isn’t remembered merely as a flash in the pan.
In truth, the Republic of Ireland international has benefited greatly from the arrival of Roberto Martinez over the summer and he’s really relishing the new opportunities and challenges that he continues to be presented with. Charging time and time again at opposing left-backs, Goodison Park has become a real hunting ground for the 25-year-old, as he’s always on the lookout for the towering figure of Romelu Lukaku in the box or even to cut inside and test the ‘keeper himself.
With some familiar faces also in the Toffees’ squad such as James McCarthy and the sidelined Darron Gibson, the Everton no. 23 has been afforded the luxury of melding international duty with club opportunity and that can only be a positive side-effect for Martin O’ Neill and Roy Keane to deal with when the time comes.
Should the Killybegs local continue to use the new-found expectancy that many fans are sure to maintain between now and the end of the season, Coleman is bound to have an unforgettable few months of domestic action – only time will tell if he can replicate it all when wearing the green of Ireland.
If transfer rumours are to be believed, Shane Long is quite the sought-after asset in England’s top-tier with a whole raft of interested clubs being linked with the Tipperary man’s signature over the festive period.
Despite not finding the net as often as he would like, the former Reading star is reportedly being singled out as a good asset to have for quite a number of sides, something that Long will either seriously consider over the coming few weeks as the transfer window remains open or he will use it as a boost for his confidence to help his current club..
However, it’s easy to see why the 26-year-old striker will take considerable time to mull over his options with Tottenham Hotspur apparently ready to jump in and bring Long on board.
As well as this, Long is growing impatient over the managerial situation at The Hawthorns ever since Steve Clarke was shown the exit door back in December and if a club were to offer the Baggies the right amount of money, it’s highly credible that Long would jump ship.
Add to this the recent drama surrounding Nicolas Anelka’s questionable, headline-grabbing celebrations following a brace against West Ham and the Ireland international already has enough incentive to start afresh.
One sure-fire way to keep his name near the top of any suitor’s transfer wish list would be to start scoring for fun between now and the close of the window, and with two tantalising fixtures over the next few weeks against both high-flying Southampton and Everton, Long has the perfect opportunity to make some headlines all of his own.