Seamus Coleman and others expected to play a part in the 2018-19 campaign.
Ciaran Clark (Newcastle): Had a difficult second half of last season, suffering an injury and ultimately losing his place in the team and not featuring at all in the Premier League after February. He did, however, start for Newcastle in their opener against Tottenham on Saturday. Nevertheless, with club captain Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schär, Federico Fernández and Florian Lejeune (currently injured) also vying for the centre-back spots, Clark faces a constant battle to keep his place in the team.
Seamus Coleman (Everton): Everton have spent heavily in the summer, with the likes of Richarlison, Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina coming in, in addition to the loan recruitments of Kurt Zouma and André Gomes. And while their starting XI is expected to be much-changed this year, one area where they understandably saw no need to improve was right back. Coleman made a relatively seamless transition back into the side last year following his lengthy absence owing to a leg break, and remains probably Ireland’s best player in most people’s eyes as it stands.
James McCarthy (Everton): Unlike Irish team-mate Coleman, McCarthy’s future at Everton looks uncertain. A number of debilitating injuries have meant the midfielder has not had a full season of consistent game time since the season in the lead up to Euro 2016. His most recent injury was a horrific broken leg suffered against West Brom last January and according to a recent report in the Liverpool Echo, McCarthy remains a “long way off” returning to the first team. With recent signing from Barcelona, Andre Gomes, Idrissa Gueye, Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin among those challenging for the midfield spots, McCarthy will have to work hard to win back his place in the team when he is fit again.
Matt Doherty (Wolves): The 26-year-old former Bohemians youngster Matt Doherty was a mainstay of Wolves’ Championship-winning team last year at right back, and if Saturday is anything to go by where he completed 90 minutes in the draw with Everton, that is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Greg Cunningham (Cardiff): Had a hugely promising start to his career, making his Ireland debut as far back as 2010 in addition to registering a handful of appearances for Man City. Cunningham did well to recover from the early setback of being let go by the Premier League club, establishing himself as a key player at Bristol City and subsequently Preston, before joining Cardiff in the summer. He was an unused sub in the 2-0 loss to Bournemouth yesterday, though, and so will seemingly need to work hard to prove himself worthy of a regular first-team spot.
Declan Rice (West Ham): Still only 19, it is difficult to remember the last time an Irish teenager playing in the Premier League elicited such excitement. He still has some way to go to develop into a top player, of course, while he remains raw, as emphasised by a couple of individual errors last season. It will be also interesting to see if Manuel Pellegrini sees him more as a defender or midfielder. He has impressed with Ireland in the latter position on a couple of occasions, but was largely deployed at the back by the Hammers last season.
Shane Duffy (Brighton): Probably the standout Irish performer in the Premier League last year, Duffy played an integral role in helping Brighton enjoy a successful first season in the division. The 26-year-old is expected to feature prominently again for Chris Hughton’s men and is also likely to be an important player for Ireland as they get their Nations Cup campaign underway next month.
Harry Arter (Cardiff): It will interesting to see how Arter gets on, having made the loan move to Cardiff on Deadline Day. He had been a key player for Bournemouth amid their first season in the Premier League, but a loss of form saw him dropped from the side midway through last season. Yet Arter is undoubtedly a fighter, having coming up from non-league and rising through the divisions, after being let go by Charlton as a youngster. So few would bet against him rejuvenating his career at the newly promoted side.
Jeff Hendrick (Burnley): A player of enormous talent, but you often get the sense watching Hendrick that he could do better. Euro 2016 was a case where he really seemed to start unlocking his potential, but since then, his form has been mixed. Last year, he played his part for a Burnley side that performed well above expectations, finishing seventh in the Premier League table. Yet he was in and out of the team at times towards the latter end of the 2017-18 season, and so will feel he can do even better in the forthcoming campaign.
Stephen Ward (Burnley): One of the most consistent and underappreciated Irish Premier League players, Ward remains an important part of Burnley’s side. Aside from an injury that kept him out of action for a portion of the campaign, he was a regular for Sean Dyche’s men, wading off the threat from his talented rival for the left-back spot Charlie Taylor. The Dubliner will turn 33 in a couple of days and so is closer to the end than the beginning of his career, but will still feel confident he can sustain the standards he has set in recent times.
Kevin Long (Burnley): The 27-year-old Cork-born centre-back enjoyed probably his best season yet last year, featuring 19 times in all competitions for Burnley. However, the club’s longest serving player was invariably behind Ben Mee and James Tarkowski in the centre-half pecking order, while the recent arrival of Ben Gibson from Middlesbrough for a club-record fee of £15 million will provide further competition for a first-team spot.
Robbie Brady (Burnley): Had been in encouraging form at the beginning of last season, before a knee injury suffered in December brought the 26-year-old’s campaign to a premature end. The Dubliner was missing from the Clarets’ recent Europa League matches, but is understood to be close to a return. When he does come back, there appears to be no reason why he can’t becoming a key Burnley player again.
Jon Walters (Burnley): At 34, Walters’ best days are seemingly behind him, but he is by all accounts a big dressing room influence and someone always capable of nicking a goal. Stoke may have underestimated the impact of selling himself and Glenn Whelan, with the club promptly relegated the season following their departures. Yet the Ireland forward’s stint at Burnley has been characterised by bad fortune so far — he missed much of last season through injury, and looked set to join Sunderland at one stage, before another injury caused that deal to fall through. Burnley generally play with one up front, with that role usually taken up by Chris Wood or Ashley Barnes, though Walters is also capable of playing out wide. So even if he can stay fit, the former Ipswich forward still may have to be content with a bit-part role in the team.
Shane Long (Southampton): The 31-year-old scored just two goals in 41 appearances in all competitions last season, indicating a clear lack of confidence when it comes to finding the net. Yet the Tipperary native still got more Premier League game time than most Irish stars last season, thereby emphasising that there is more to his game than scoring. Playing in a struggling side such as Southampton, his tireless work ethic is often appreciated by team-mates and consequently rewarded by the manager.
Cyrus Christie (Fulham): Had a disappointing start to his Fulham career, featuring only sporadically as the London side gained promotion via the Championship play-offs last season. However, he did complete 90 minutes in the Cottagers’ Premier League opener against Crystal Palace, though with Timothy Fosu-Mensah having coming in on loan from Man United, Christie cannot afford to feel too complacent as it stands.
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