By Rob Wright
Wigan’s James McClean claimed all the accolades this weekend as he came off the bench to score two goals and give his side a much needed win away to Derby to put some breathing space between the Latics and the relegation zone.
McClean would have been unhappy not to have started at Pride Park but made up for lost time when he was introduced on the hour mark with his side trailing 1-0 to a Derby team that featured Richard Keogh and substitute Jeff Hendrick.
Hendrick had gone close to doubling his side’s lead before McClean’s intervention but his effort from 20-yards out saw Scott Carson produce a fine save to palm the ball away.
And so, four minutes after his introduction, McClean levelled the scores with a close-range effort from the centre of the penalty area before he then scored the goal that would inflict a first defeat in 12 games on the Rams with another effort from inside the penalty area.
In the Premier League it was another day to forget for McClean’s Ireland team-mate John O’Shea. While his Sunderland side avoided the ignominy of another thrashing on the back of their 8-0 defeat to Southampton last week, they still went down 2-0 to Arsenal.
O’Shea was not directly responsible for either of Arsenal’s goals, both of which came from defensive errors in the Sunderland defence and indeed the margin of defeat could have been bigger had the Irish defender not been on hand to clear the danger with the scores at 0-0 when goalkeeper Vito Mannone spilled a routine cross.
Robbie Brady fared much better at Anfield where he filled in at left-back and kept Raheem Sterling quiet all afternoon, helping to frustrate the Reds and lead his side to a valuable 0-0 draw.
Hull manager Steve Bruce was full of praise for Brady after the game, saying: “Robbie never gave (Sterling) a kick. Robbie spent a long time last year waiting and waiting. But the last two weeks he's looked himself again. (Next week) He'll be the first name on the team sheet.”
At Turf Moor Burnley’s Stephen Ward came up against international team-mates Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy as Everton ran out 3-1 winners. Both McCarthy and Coleman impressed for the Toffees and while Ward was solid, he did pick up a booking for a nasty foul on Coleman in the second half.
Marc Wilson and Jonathan Walters both featured for Stoke in their 1-0 defeat away to Southampton but neither managed to make any significant impact. Walters did go close with a couple of half-chances but could have no real complaints when he was replaced by Marko Arnautovic with 20 minutes to go.
In the Championship Ireland’s number one David Forde turned in another fine performance to help his side claim a 1-0 victory over Cardiff City at the New Den. Forde produced a stunning double save towards the end of the first half with the game still scoreless, first denying Craig Noone and then blocking Adam Le Fondre’s follow-up shot.
Forde was also able to twice deny his international team-mate Anthony Pilkington in the second half as the Cardiff midfielder went close in the dying stages of the game.
There were six Irish players involved in Ipswich’s 2-2 draw with Huddersfield but despite five of them featuring for Ipswich it was The Terriers’ Sean Scannell who made the most telling contribution.
Luke Chambers, Daryl Murphy and Connor Sammon all started for Ipswich, who were well on their way to victory as they lead 2-0 before Chambers was penalised for a foul on Grant Holt in the penalty area to give Huddersfield a way back into the game.
Stephen Hunt and Jay Tabb both came off the bench for the home side but it was Hudderfield substitute Scannell who made the biggest impact as he sent in an inch-perfect cross for Nahki Wells to head home and ensure a draw.
Wolves’ Matt Doherty was another Irishman to provide an essential assist as the right-back provided the pass that allowed Leon Clarke to side foot the ball home and give his side a 2-1 victory over Leeds that led to manager Darko Milanic being relieved of his duties.
Birmingham goalkeeper Darren Randolph had an afternoon he’ll not soon forget but for all the wrong reasons as he conceded eight goals in his side’s shock 8-0 defeat to Bournemouth.
Former Ireland Under-19 international Harry Arter was part of the Bournemouth side but was substituted just before the hour mark after picking up a yellow card.
Neil Lennon continued his good start to life as Bolton manger as Joe Mason started in his side’s 3-1 victory over Brentford.
Wanderers stormed into a 2-0 lead only to see Ireland U-21 international Alan Judge, who impressed throughout for Brentford, provide the cross for Jon Toral to pull a goal back before the hosts added a third.
In League One, former Ireland Under-21 international Conor Hourihane thought he had given his Barnsley side a surprise victory over Bristol City when he won and then converted a penalty to put his side 2-1 up only to see a late goal give the League One leaders a draw and preserve their unbeaten record.
All three of Chesterfield’s Irish players featured in their 1-0 defeat against Walsall. Eoin Doyle and Jimmy Ryan (who was substituted for James O’Shea) both created chances for their side but to no success as the Sprieites, managed by former Sligo Rovers boss Paul Cook, extended their winless run to four games.
Bradford’s Alan Sheehan and Mark Yeates were on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline as their side went down away to Oldham but both can be pleased with their individual performances. Yeates was involved in the Bradford goal as his cross was headed into the path of goalscorer Andy Haliday before going close on several occasions to claiming an equaliser.
Keith Keane provided the crucial assist as Crawley Town claimed a point away to Gillingham. Lanre Oyabanjo and Conor Henderson both started for Crawley, alongside Keane who provided the final ball before Gwion Edward scored for them.
Oyabanjo then had to be sharp late on to block on the goal line and help give his side a share of the spoils.
In Scotland Jonny Hayes' second minute goal was enough for Aberdeen to claim a 1-0 victory over Motherwell and end the visitor’s nine-game unbeaten streak at Pittodrie and move Aberdeen above Celtic in the SPL temporarily. Willo Flood and Adam Rooney also featured for the Dons but it was Hayes who claimed the headlines.
Former Bohemians player Graham Carey was on the mark as Scottish Premiership bottom side Ross County claimed a point away to St Mirren in a 2-2 draw. Carey helped to open the scoring as his corner was headed home by Paul Quinn only to see his side pegged back.
The Blanchardstown native re-established his side’s lead with a fine strike from 20-yards out only to see St Mirren draw level again.
Further afield, Damien Duff is still waiting for his first win in the Australian A League as Melbourne City lost 5-2 in their derby clash with Melbourne Victory. Duff played a part in both of City’s goals as their opener came from a free-kick after he was felled on the edge of the box.
The former Chelsea player then sent in a corner kick that Jason Hoffman headed home but those goals proved to be little more than consolations.
Liam Miller could do little to prevent his Brisbane Road side suffer a 2-0 defeat to Sydney FC while Andy Keogh had a rare goalless day for Perth Glory as Adelaide United beat them 2-0.
In the MLS, Andy O’Brien’s Vancouver Whitecaps got the better of Shane O’Neill’s Colorado Rapids with a 1-0 victory that ensures the Canadian side’s progress to the play-offs. Both defenders played the full 90 minutes but it was O’Brien who claimed a vital victory to extend their season.
Robbie Keane was rested for LA Galaxy’s 2-0 defeat to the Seattle Sounders, a result which saw the Galaxy lose their place at the top of the Western Conference.