By Ed Leahy
Paul McShane was handed a poison chalice of sorts as he returned to the Hull City starting selection for the trip to Premier League champions Manchester City.
The Ireland defender would have been well aware that he was on a hiding to nothing, returning to the struggling Hull side, knowing that they were in for a very busy afternoon at the Etihad Stadium.
But in typical McShane fashion, the Tigers cult hero grabbed that proffered chalice, downed it in one and belched boisterously at the Etihad aristocrats to put in a dedicated and disciplined performance in the heart of the Hull defence.
Steve Bruce’s back five also included Robbie Brady in the left wing-back role, and the former St Kevin’s Boys starlet also showed no fear at the Eastlands venue as he burst into the City half in the 35th minute and began a move that led to the visitors taking an unlikely lead.
Brady, composed and allowed time on the ball, glided inside from the left flank and made good ground across the half-way line before lifting a delightful through ball over the retreating City defence.
A thrilling game of pinball then ensued in and around the City box before the ball crashed off the right-hand post and straight into the path of David Meyler who had continued his run from midfield and made no mistake tucking the ball home to grab the lead.
Bruce’s side were eventually penetrated from an injury-time free-kick but the morale-boosting point will do wonders for Hull’s ongoing battle against relegation and may just see McShane get a bit more game time going into the crucial stage of the season.
The Hull boss was full of praise for the fans' favourite after the game: "You can't ever fault Paul McShane and his attitude on the pitch, he gives you everything he has got time after time. That makes him the cult hero he is, the supporters associate with him. They forgive a mistake because they see the effort and endeavour.
"The problem - and I can understand it - is when I don't pick him he gets a young angry man."
Perhaps the Ireland management team may be more willing to utilise the never-say-die defender in future selections.
Elsewhere, Ciaran Clark dropped to his knees when the ball crashed into the back of the net at Villa Park on Saturday.
Minutes earlier, Clark was first to celebrate with Jores Okore as Villa grabbed their first league goal in 659 long minutes of Premier League action.
Like Hull, Villa produced a very decent defensive display against league leaders Chelsea and Clark barely put a foot wrong as he enjoys his continued run in the heart of the back four.
But Paul Lambert’s men were undone by a Branislav Ivanovic winner, which flew into the top corner with the Ireland defender looking like he had just taken one bullet too many as he hit the Villa Park turf with nothing to show for his afternoon’s endeavours.
The Merseyside derby was a bit of a damp squib but from an Irish perspective, it proved an encouraging afternoon as James McCarthy returned to the Everton XI after recovering from his much publicised hamstring injury.
The hard-working midfielder was named Everton’s man of the match for his fine display in an under-pressure Toffees’ midfield and, more importantly, McCarthy lasted the full 90 minutes without any damage to his aforementioned injury.
Seamus Coleman almost won it for Everton in the dying moments after he was played in by a sublime Ross Barkley pass, and the attack-minded defender hit a fine effort on target to force a super save from Simon Mignolet.
Darron Gibson was an unused sub, while Aiden McGeady was not included in the match-day squad.
Damien Delaney started as his Crystal Palace side stole an away win at Leicester City. The Ireland defender spent the majority of the tricky away day very deep inside his own half, and the clean sheet was well-earned, especially with butterfingered keeper Julian Speroni fumbling his way through the 90 minutes.
John O’Shea again started for Sunderland and despite the Black Cats taking an away lead at Swansea, the struggling side could not hold on for the victory as Ki Sung-yueng sneaked in behind the Ireland defender for the Swansea equaliser.
In O’Shea’s defence (no pun intended), there was little he could do for the goal, due to the quality of the delivery and the fact that the Korean midfielder should have been picked up as the Ireland man was tracking another Swansea attacker.
Richard Dunne may have played his last ever Premier League game as he picked up a nasty injury and had to come off after 83 minutes as QPR were beaten by Southampton.
Dunne damaged his medial cruciate ligament in his right knee and is now expected to be out for at least three months.
The Ireland defender departed the scene with the match delicately poised at 0-0 and as a sign of how much QPR will miss Dunne for the run-in, Southampton grabbed an injury-time winner to snatch all three points.
In the Championship, Derby County stepped up their promotion push with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Bolton on Saturday and Ireland midfielder Jeff Hendrick bagged a brace as Steve McClaren’s side remain in the automatic places.
Hendrick was instrumental in the footballing Rams midfield and was on hand to prod the ball home for Derby’s second following a slick move, before nodding home the fourth to secure the points.
It was a hassle-free afternoon for County captain Richard Keogh in the centre of the rarely troubled Derby defence, while fellow Ireland defender Cyrus Christie was an unused sub.
Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich lost touch with the leaders as the recently departed Conor Sammon came back to haunt his former side as lowly Rotherham enjoyed a valuable three-point haul.
It may have been a different story, had Daryl Murphy taken an early chance to give Ipswich the lead, while Ireland hopeful Luke Chambers also had a great chance, coming close with a fine headed effort.
But it was all about the ‘Sammon of College’ as the former UCD striker (hence the nickname) was on hand to crash the loose ball home after Ipswich failed to clear a corner, sealing a well-earned win for Rotherham.
So that’s two goals in four games for the new club, while Paul Green also impressed in the middle of the park for the home side, playing the full 90. Jay Tabb and David McGoldrick played for a tired-looking Ipswich side, with Noel Hunt coming off the bench for the final 15 minutes.
James McClean certainly didn’t look too perturbed about not getting a move away from Wigan on transfer deadline day and was his usual lively self as the struggling Latics took on league leaders Bournemouth.
McClean struck the woodwork early on with a rasping free-kick that had the keeper beaten but Harry Arter’s Bournemouth showed their class as they grabbed two quick goals before half-time.
Fellow Irish midfielder Chris McCann played alongside McClean but was caught badly for the second goal as the league leaders proved too much for the home side.
Wigan had a brief spell of good play early in the second half and McClean set up the 60th-minute goal as he easily beat the defender to whip in a ball that just had to be nodded home. But it was too little too late as the Latics stay seven points adrift of safety.
Surprise packet Brentford stayed in the hunt with a hard-earned 1-0 away win at Leeds with Jonathan Douglas again leading by example in the middle of the park against his old side. Alan Judge remains out injured but may return for the midweek clash with Watford.
Norwich are putting together a well-timed run of good form and it is no coincidence that it coincides with the return to fitness of Ireland midfielder Wes Hoolahan. The Canaries are just outside the play-off places now and Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of Blackpool pushed the East Anglian side up to seventh in the table.
Hoolahan was instrumental in Gary Hooper’s second goal before being subbed with the points secured after 68 minutes.
Eoin Doyle was thrown straight in at the deep end as he made his Cardiff debut away at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and helped the Bluebirds to a valuable point before being subbed after 65 minutes.
Doyle had one shot on target that was easily saved and linked up well with strike partner Kenwyne Jones, while Keiren Westwood had a quiet afternoon and could not be faulted for the Cardiff goal.
Fellow keeper, Darren Randolph, also conceded one as he was beaten at close range in Birmingham’s 1-1 away draw with Fulham; the Ireland stopper made some important late saves to secure the away point.
Not so, for current Ireland number one David Forde as his under-performing Millwall side were stuffed by ten-man Huddersfield with Sean Scannell again knocking on the Ireland door with a fine individual effort as well as impressing throughout the 3-1 away win.
Millwall remain in the relegation zone and it was not a good afternoon for Forde as he was beaten again, with the aid of some uneven New Den turf, while compatriot Shaun Williams gave away a penalty as the visitors wrapped up the points with five minutes to play.
In League One, the battle at the top of the table between MK Dons and Bristol City failed to live up to its billing with the 5,000-strong travelling support being the most impressive thing about the Stadium MK stalemate.
Darren Potter’s first-half effort from distance was probably the best chance of the encounter, with Samir Carruthers coming on as an early sub for the Dons, while Derrick Williams put in a solid shift for the league leaders.
An Eoin Doyle-less Chesterfield showed that they were more than a one-trick pony as Paul Cook’s side grabbed a valuable away win at Notts County. Jay O’Shea and Jimmy Ryan starred for the Spireites, while Will Hayhurst played the full game for the home side.
Cook’s side now sit fifth in the table, while Anthony Forde’s Walsall are within three points of the play-offs following their 2-0 win away at Doncaster. The former Wolves man hit the bar for Walsall, while Enda Stevens and Paul Keegan played on the losing side.
In League Two, Damien McCrory and Darragh Lenihan helped leaders Burton keep their unbeaten streak intact as they beat Cheltenham 3-1 away from home.
Gearoid Morrissey was brought back down to earth with a bump just days after making his debut for Cambridge United at Old Trafford as he was named in the side against Wycombe in the not-so-glamorous surroundings of the Abbey Stadium. The Us were beaten 1-0.
Former Dundalk man Pat Hoban continues to start for new side Oxford and had the ball in the back of the net, but the striker must wait for his first goal as it was disallowed for offside as United drew 1-1 with Luton.
Northampton also maintained their fine run of good form and John Joe O’Toole helped his side to a 2-1 win over Padraig Amond’s Morecambe.
In Scotland, Adam Rooney was again on the scoresheet as the Dons moved level with Celtic at the top of the table with a 4-0 win over Ross County.
Further afield, Cillian Sheridan helped APOEL to a 4-0 win over Ethnikos with the former Celtic man returning to full fitness with a 25-minute substitute’s appearance.
Andy Keogh could not add to his A League tally as Perth Glory were beaten 3-1 at the weekend, while Damien Duff was also in action and also finished on the losing side as his Melbourne City side lost 3-0.
With the start of the MLS edging closer, Sean St Ledger is continuing his tour of the USA and this week finds himself in Orlando playing piggy-back with Brazil legend Kaka.
In Malaysia, Eamon Zayed helped the Sabah Rhinos to open their league account with a 2-0 win over Kuala Lumpur.
Billy Mehmet made his league debut for Sarawak Crocs in the Malaysian Super League, scoring in a 3-3 draw with FELDA. pic.twitter.com/QGET5mE0uT— The Emerald Exiles (@EmeraldExiles) February 9, 2015
Colin Falvey is continuting his footballing world tour and has signed for Canadian side Ottawa Fury, linking up with former Sligo and Shamrock Rovers midfielder Richie Ryan.