On Friday, Martin O’Neill announced an enlarged 40-man provisional Ireland squad for the friendly games against Switzerland and Slovakia. With time and matches running out to impress the management team before the Euros, find out how the Irish players abroad fared this weekend.
Good weekend: Leon Best (Rotherham United)
The Irish striker has struggled with form and fitness over the last couple of years, with Saturday finally providing some relief for the former Newcastle striker.
The substitute scored twice late on to earn Rotherham a point after being 3-0 down with less than 10 minutes remaining. It was the first time Best had scored in nearly two years.
Bad weekend: Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
Ciaran Clark was dropped to the bench as Aston Villa lost 2-0 at home to Spurs.
After starting the last two games for Aston Villa, conceding seven goals, Clark has struggled to cement a starting place in one of the worst sides to play in the Premier League.
Five things we learned this week:
1) Excluding the injuries to Robbie Brady and Harry Arter and those who had no game this weekend; Rob Elliot (Monday night), John O’Shea and James McClean - 28 out of the remaining 35 players (80%) named in Martin O’Neill’s squad started this weekend, with a further two (Eunan O’Kane and Jonathan Walters) coming on from the bench.
2) Aiden McGeady’s goal for Sheffield Wednesday was his first goal since scoring the vital winner against Georgia in the European Championship qualifiers in September 2014.
3) Simon Cox, who was also named in Martin O’Neill’s preliminary squad, still hasn’t scored since 28th December 2014 - a run of 30 games.
4) Paddy Madden’s fine form continues, the Scunthorpe striker netted his 19th goal of the season against Shrewsbury.
5) Martin O’Neill indicated on Friday that U21 international Jack Byrne will be invited to train with the senior side, but another fine performance and goal for the Dubliner for Dutch side SC Cambuur may increase calls for the invitation to be extended to a playing role.
The weekend in numbers:
FA Cup: Seven starters
Goalkeepers (1): Darren Randolph (West Ham)
Defenders (3): Seamus Coleman (Everton), Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace),Paul McShane (Reading)
Midfielders (2): James McCarthy (Everton), Stephen Quinn (Reading)
Forwards (1): Simon Cox (Reading)
One unused substitute
Defenders (1): Joey O’Brien (West Ham)
Premier League: Three starters
Midfielders (2): Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City)
Forwards (1):Shane Long (Southampton)
Two substitute appearances
Midfielders (1):EunanO’Kane (Bournemouth)
Forwards (1):Jonathan Walters (Stoke City)
Two unused substitutes
Defenders (1): Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
Midfielders (1): Stephen Ireland (Stoke City)
Championship: Twenty one starters
Goalkeepers (1): Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday)
Defenders (7): Stephen Kelly (Rotherham United), Cyrus Christie (Derby County), Richard Keogh (Derby County), Shane Duffy (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen Ward (Burnley), Greg Cunningham (Preston), Matt Doherty (Wolves)
Midfielders (11): Jeff Hendrick (Derby County), Paul Green (Rotherham United), Lee Frecklington (Rotherham United), Darren Potter (MK Dons), Samir Carruthers (MK Dons), Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham City), DarraghLenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Alan McCormack (Brentford), Alan Judge (Brentford), Sean Scannell (Huddersfield Town), Aiden McGeady (Sheffield Wednesday)
Forwards (2): Anthony Pilkington (Cardiff City), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich Town)
Three substitute appearances
Forwards (3): Joe Mason (Wolves), Eoin Doyle (Preston), Leon Best (Rotherham United)
Nine unused substitutes
Goalkeepers (4): Jack Bonham (Brentford), Paddy Kenny (Rotherham United), Joe Murphy (Huddersfield Town), Eric Grimes (Leeds United)
Defenders (1): Alex Pearce (Bristol City)
Midfielders (3): David Meyler (Hull City), Jonathan Douglas (Ipswich Town), Jay Tabb (Ipswich Town)
Forwards (1): Gerry McDonagh (Nottingham Forest)
Goals (4): Stephen Ward (Burnley), Aiden McGeady (Sheffield Wednesday), Leon Best x2 (Rotherham United)
The FA Cup
Slaven Bilić stuck to his word and started with Darren Randolph in goal for West Ham’s FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United.
The Irish goalkeeper can deem himself unlucky after conceding a late equaliser against the Red Devils. Replays show Randolph was fouled by Bastian Schweinsteiger just as Anthony Martial was about to strike the equaliser, which secured a replay for Louis van Gaal’s side. Joey O’Brien was on the bench for the Hammers.
Darren Randolph was fouled for the Man Unt. goal, blatant foul on the magnificent Payet in the penalty area. The 9500 fans were terrific. dg— David Gold (@davidgold) March 13, 2016
Damien Delaney ended a bad week by helping Crystal Palace overcome Reading 2-0 to reach the FA Cup semi-finals.
There were solid, if not spectacular, performances from the three Irish Royals on show on Friday night. Paul McShane hardly put a foot wrong at the back, while both Stephen Quinn and Simon Cox worked tirelessly all game with little reward.
We had a right go last night, we defo made them work for it. Game was decided on a harsh peno, sickening. Great atmosphere in the Mad Stad.— Paul McShane (@pmacca15) March 12, 2016
Séamus Coleman and James McCarthy started for Everton as Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku inspired the Toffees to a 2-0 win over Chelsea. Coleman was excellent for Everton with a well-disciplined performance at right-back.
Darron Gibson was once again excluded from the matchday squad. The former Manchester United midfielder has not played for Everton since coming on as a late substitute in the win over Carlisle in the FA Cup fourth-round six weeks ago.
Norwich picked up only their second point out of possible 30 as they drew 0-0 with Manchester City on Saturday. Robbie Brady missed out after being taken off injured against Swansea the previous weekend. It is hoped the former Hull player will return for this weekend’s trip to West Brom.
Wes Hoolahan was replaced midway through the second-half as the Canaries failed to register a shot on target.
Harry Arter’s Achilles injury prevented him playing in Bournemouth’s thrilling 3-2 win over Swansea, but the Irish midfielder could return to face Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Arter’s teammate Eunan O’Kane did feature for the Cherries. The 25-year-old came on at half-time with the score at 1-1, to make his ninth substitute appearance of the season in the Premier League. O’Kane has been steady performer for Eddie Howe’s side but hasn’t started in the league since October when Bournemouth lost 5-1 at Manchester City.
Glenn Whelan’s 300th Stoke City appearance was ruined by a future Euro 2016 opponent. A double from Italian Graziano Pelle ended a barren run of 12 games for the Southampton striker.
Whelan was the only Irish starter for the Potters, with Jonathan Walters coming on in the 92nd minute after failing to get off the bench against Chelsea the previous weekend. Marc Wilson is injured as Shay Given edges closer to full fitness.
Shane Long played the full 90 minutes for the Saints in the 2-1 win after missing the last match through injury. Ciaran Clark was an unused substitute as Aston Villa lost 2-0 at home to title-chasing Spurs.
Rafa Benitez takes charge of Newcastle United for the first time tonight as the Magpies take on high-flying Leicester City. Rob Elliot is expected to start in goal for Newcastle.
Six Irish players started at the New York Stadium as Rotherham United battled back from three goals down to snatch a dramatic point against Derby County.
Cyrus Christie and Richard Keogh once again started for the Rams. Jeff Hendrick returned to Derby’s starting line-up after being dropped to the bench for the midweek defeat at QPR and provided the assist for Derby’s second goal.
Stephen Kelly started for the Millers for the first time since November having been sidelinedthrough injury with Paul Green and Lee Frecklington starting in midfield.
Frecklington, along with Matt Doherty and Michael Doyle, was named in the Football League team of the midweek after scoring a late winner against Middlesbrough on Tuesday.
However, it was a former Irish international striker who came off the bench with his side 3-0 down that stole the show. Two headers from Leon Best in the last five minutes, one of which was assisted by Stephen Kelly, provided Neil Warnock’s side a lifeline in their battle against drop.
Aiden McGeady scored his first goal for Sheffield Wednesday in his seventh appearance for the Owls. The Ireland winger is yet to the complete the full 90 minutes out of the five games he has started.
Keiren Westwood secured his ninth clean sheet of the season in that game against Nottingham Forest in his 27th match of the season, as Wednesday earned their first win in the last six games.
Young Irish striker Gerry McDonagh was on the Forest bench as the 18-year-old aims to make the grade at the City Ground.
Another younger Irish player, U21 goalkeeper Eric Grimes, was on the bench for Leeds as Steve Evans' side claimed a third win on the bounce at Blackburn. Shane Duffy and Darragh Lenihan started for Rovers in the 2-1 defeat.
New investment but same old problems persist for Neil Lennon’s Bolton Wanderers. Bolton are now 11 points from safety after losing 2-1 at home to Preston.
Alan Browne missed out for Preston but left-back Greg Cunningham started for the Lilywhites. Browne along with Jack Byrne, was sounded out by Martin O’Neill as members of the U21 squad who will be invited to train with the senior team.
It was Cunningham’s cross late in the game that set up the late winner. Marnick Vermijl has been credited with the goal but it was Eoin Doyle who diverted the ball into the back of the net. Doyle will be desperate to claim the goal considering has not scored since the start of January. Make your own mind up with the clip below.
100% my goal. Watched d second 1 back as well and I'm onside for that 1. 😡. Great win from the boys. @JordanHugill was different class today— Eoin Doyle (@eoindoyle88) March 12, 2016
Left-back Stephen Ward opened the scoring as Burnley got another vital win, this time at Huddersfiled, as they aim to bounce straight back to the Premier League. It was Ward’s second goal of the season as the Clarets remain top of the table.
Sean Scannell started for the Terriers in the 3-1 defeat. Scannell returned to action after injury in midweek, coming on as a substitute in their midweek win over Reading.
Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town lost further ground in the race for the play-offs after losing 1-0 at Cardiff City. Anthony Pilkington started for the Bluebirds, going close with a header, while Daryl Murphy started for the Tractor Boys with Jonathan Douglas and Jay Tabb on the bench. Kevin Foley missed out through injury.
Murphy has gone seven games without scoring, netting just twice in the last 16 matches.
Alex Pearce remained on the bench for Bristol City as the Robins fought back to beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. The defender, who is on-loan from Derby County, has been left on the bench in the last four games after starting in the 4-0 home loss to Brighton.
David Meyler failed to get off the Hull City bench as the Tigers drew 1-1 with Championship strugglers MK Dons. Meyler’s howler in the FA Cup fifth-round replay against Arsenal will not help the Irish midfielder get more game time in the lead up to the European Championships.
The Cork man has started less than half of Hull’s Championship games this season. Darren Potter and Samir Carruthers started in midfield for the Dons.
In the first part of the season, Brentford were looking up, hoping to claim one of the play-off places but defeat to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s QPR leaves the Bees just seven points clear of the relegation zone.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Alan Judge who will be looking to make his Ireland debut in this month’s friendlies. Alan McCormack also started in midfield for Brentford.
Matt Doherty came up against Stephen Gleeson in the West Midlands derby on Sunday. Doherty, who scored a late winner for Wolves in their midweek game against Bristol City, can consider himself fortunate for not conceding a penalty when he pulled back Clayton Donaldson. Joe Mason was a late sub for Wolves in the 0-0 draw.
Former Bohemians and Shelbourne striker Paddy Madden scored his 19th goal of the season as he seized on a poor back pass to finish superbly as Scunthorpe United drew 2-2 with Shrewsbury Town.
Chris Forrester returned from injury to start for Peterborough as the Posh lost 3-2 at home to Port Vale. Sam Foley and Sam Kelly provided the assists for two of Port Vale’s goals.
Michael Timlin was a late substitute for Southend United but still had enough time to score a spectacular goal from 25 yards to round off a 2-0 win for the Shrimpers. Conor Hourihane missed a chance to equalise for Barnsley earlier on in the game but pulled his penalty wide.
David Forde was on the bench for Millwall as the Lions drew 2-2 at Swindon. It doesn’t look like Forde will win his place back in the Millwallteam any time soon, as last weekcurrent first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Archer was named League One player of the month for February.
It was a bad day for Ian Lawlor and his Bury side as they lost 3-0 away to local rivals Rochdale. Louis Dunne came on as a substitute to make his debut for Colchester United. The midfielder is an Irish U17 international.Billy Clarke’s assist helped Bradford City overcome Doncaster Rovers.
Former St Patrick’s Athletic player Jake Carroll scored as Hartlepool United beat fellow strugglers Dagenham & Redbridge to boost their hopes of preserving their Football League status.
Wimbledon’s Ryan Sweeney was sent off after pulling down a Morecambe player in the box. Former Ireland U21 international Jamie Devitt scored from the spot to give Morecambe their first win in 11 matches.
Plymouth’s Graham Carey, Crawley’s Frankie Sutherland and Newport’s Mark Byrne all provided assists for their respective teams over the weekend.
Jonathan Hayes celebrated his first senior international call-up by providing the cross for Aberdeen’s winner against Kilmarnock. Adam Rooney is still out injured with the Dons just one point behind Celtic.
It was the winger’s seventh assist in the league this season placing him second in the overall rankings, three behind teammate and former Derry City player Niall McGinn. Garry Dicker started for Kilmarnock.Darren O’Dea was in the Dundee team that lost at home to Hearts.
Anthony Stokes started for Hibernian in the Scottish League Cup final but they lost 2-1 to Ross County, who claimed their first major trophy.
Rest of the World
In Holland, Jack Byrne opened the scoring for SC Cambuur this weekend. Byrne beat one Heracles defender before unleashing a superb strike into the left corner of the goal.
Here's Jack Byrne's goal for Cambuur against Heracles earlier. The on-loan City midfielder is making an impression. pic.twitter.com/PksMFZJOAU— City Watch (@City_Watch) March 13, 2016
Defeat for the Eredivisie strugglers leaves them bottom of the table.
2 - Jack Byrne has scored two goals in his last 128 minutes of play, after scoring once in his first 1406 Eredivisie minutes. Accelerated.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) March 13, 2016
Kevin Doyle will have the bragging rights when the Irish team meet up after his Colorado Rapids side overcame Robbie Keane’s LA Galaxy in MLS 1-0.
In Cyprus, Cillian Sheridan started for Omonia but lost to his former club APOEL 2-1 on Saturday.
Andy Keogh scored twice for Perth Glory in the A-League, including one from the spot as Glory thumped Central Coast Mariners 4-0. That’s seven goals in seven games for Keogh. Former Cork City striker Roy O’Donovan started for the Mariners.
Team of the Weekend (4-3-3)
Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday); Séamus Coleman (Everton), Paul McShane (Reading), Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace), Stephen Ward (Burnley); James McCarthy (Everton), Jack Byrne (SC Cambuur), Stephen Gleeson (Birmingham City); Aiden McGeady (Sheffield Wednesday), Leon Best (Rotherham United), Andy Keogh (Perth Glory).
TWEET POLL: Who was your player of the weekend?
Séamus Coleman (Everton)
Stephen Ward (Burnley)
Aiden McGeady (Sheffield Wednesday)
Leon Best (Rotherham United)
TWEET POLL: Who was the outstanding Irish player of the weekend?— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) March 14, 2016