Jonathan Walters made the most of his inclusion in the Stoke starting XI at the weekend as he fired home a long-range effort to send the Potters through to the next round of the FA Cup.

The Ireland talisman has not been first-choice at the Britannia Stadium this year as Walters faces stiff competition from an in-form front three, however, manager Mark Hughes still knows the value of the hard-working front-man and will be keen to keep him involved throughout the second half of the season.

Some out-of-favour Irish players might be concerned by their lack of first-team football, but in Walters' case, the Ireland manager, you would imagine, would be quite happy to see his star man wrapped up in cotton wool and safely delivered to the Irish training base in May.

Walters' cameo role should see the striker arrive fresh and strong for the summer championships, which is great news for the Ireland team as they face a tough task getting out of their group in France.

Marc Wilson also started for Stoke, while Glenn Whelan came on for the final half hour. Former Bohemians player Paul Keegan was part of the losing Doncaster side.

Darron Gibson was thankful for the FA Cup this weekend as he was named in the first team for Everton's home clash with Dagenham and Redbridge. Aiden McGeady, however, was nowhere to be seen in the matchday squad.

And judging by this quote from Everton manager Roberto Martinez, the Ireland winger's bags must be already packed as a move away from Goodison Park appears imminent:  "We have three teams that have asked about him. It is important not to cup tie him," said the Everton manager.

There are rumours that Gibson could also be on his way out of Goodison during the January window and while the match practice will have certainly helped the former Manchester United midfielder's fitness, it is unlikely that a facile win over a lower-league club will change the manager’s opinion.

"We have had a lot of interest in Darron Gibson and Aiden McGeady and we need to sit down and consider what is the next step," said Martinez.

"It has been disappointing for them not to have enough minutes on the pitch and they need to be playing until the end of the season due to the opportunity of playing for Ireland in the Euros."

Isn't it great to see the Everton boss taking such a keen interest in Ireland's Euro 2016 campaign!

"They deserve to have special attention at this stage of the season," Martinez continued. They haven't played enough and now is a good opportunity to see if the second half of the season can be a good one."

James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman missed out on Everton's win through injury.

Another man who benefited from the FA Cup reshuffle was current Ireland number one Darren Randolph, who started in goal and kept a clean sheet as West Ham beat Wolves 1-0.

Shane Long led the line for Southampton but his side were undone by Premier League outfit Crystal Palace, 2-1. And another all Premier-League clash saw Ireland keeper Rob Elliot on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline as Newcastle were beaten by Watford.

Elliot's form has been good and while his run of games for the Magpies is unlikely dislodge Randolph from that starting berth, it could certainly see him included as one of the three for France.

Forgotten man, David Forde, was not in FA Cup action but did play as Millwall maintained their chase for League 1 promotion, winning 2-1 at Oldham.

James McClean was back in action for West Brom after missing the Christmas period through suspension and the Baggies had to rely on a last-minute goal to grab a 2-2 draw with Bristol City.

John O’Shea lasted 65 minutes for Sunderland as they were eventually well beaten by Arsenal. The Ireland centre-half has recently recovered from a calf injury and perhaps was feeling the effects of a tough afternoon chasing Gunners players.

Either way, the score was 1-1 when O’Shea went off and ten minutes later, Arsenal had scored twice and secured the 3-1 win. The Mackems still have a Premier League relegation race to look forward to.

Harry Arter was given a weekend off as his Bournemouth side enjoyed a 2-1 win away at Birmingham with Eunan O’Kane stepping in to fill his compatriot’s place in the starting XI.

Dubliner Ian Lawlor made a fine debut for new club Bury as the Man City on-loan keeper kept a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw with Bradford City.

The 6' 4" keeper is certainly one to watch from an Irish perspective and this loan spell should make a big impact on his fledgling cross-channel career.

Elsewhere, Conor Sammon put in a decent shift as Sheffield United were cruelly undone by a late, late Wayne Rooney penalty at Old Trafford, while Conor Masterson was on the bench for Liverpool on Friday night.

The Ireland youth international was an unused sub as Liverpool were held 2-2 by lowly Exeter, who also had a secret weapon on the bench in the guise of Clinton Morrison.

“We had the team talk and I got told I was on the bench," said Masterson. “I just couldn't believe it, it was an unbelievable feeling. I was taken aback to be honest.

"Jurgen Klopp just said to me 'if you get a chance to go on, then go out and enjoy yourself. There's no pressure on you. Just go and do your best.'"

Richie Towell's eagerly awaited debut finally arrived at the weekend as he started for Brighton, who were beaten by David Meyler’s Hull City, although, the Cork man was an unused sub for the Tigers.

Towell, on the other hand, played the entire game, just off the front man, and while his side failed to hit the back of the net, manager Chris Hughton was suitably impressed by the former Dundalk man's contribution.

"Richie Towell played 90 minutes and coped very well," said the former Ireland defender. "The last 90 minutes he played was back in November in the Irish Cup Final and he has been training very hard to be ready for now."

Brighton return to league action on Tuesday night against Rotherham and you would imagine that Towell will be rested, considering he put in a 90-minute shift for the first time since scoring the winner for Dundalk in November's FAI Cup final.

Another recent League of Ireland graduate, who hasn't received the same column inches as the player of the year, Towell, is former St Pat's midfielder Chris Forrester.

The Dubliner has made an immediate impact at League 1 side Peterborough and has already been likened to Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick.

The Posh stepped up a level at the weekend, knocking Championship side Preston North End out of the FA Cup with what looked a facile victory, with Forrester playing a part in both goals.

The Peterborough number 33 is playing a less familiar holding role in midfield but already looks to have improved his physicality and fitness, while his natural talents were never in question.

A move in the January window has been mooted but perhaps that might not help the player's advancement as he is playing in a progressive club and is an established part of a team where his best talents are being best utilised and improved.

Stephen Ward must have enjoyed his rare foray forward as he grabbed the winner for Burnley in a battle between two of the Championship's top side.

The Ireland full-back was a one-time striker for Bohemians but the Dubliner has made a career across the water as a defender, and showed that he still knew where the back of the net was as he pounced on a mis-hit George Boyd shot to crash the ball home in the 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.

There was some Irish interest in the shock of the weekend as Oxford beat Premier League side Swansea City.

Callum O’Dowda came off the bench to play the final 20 minutes, while former Dundalk striker Pat Hoban enjoyed a last-minute cameo; his introduction affording two-goal hero Kemar Roofe a standing ovation at the Kassam Stadium.

No such joy for Scunthorpe's Dubliners Paddy Madden and Stephen Dawson who faced the mighty Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A valiant effort went unrewarded at The Iron went down 2-0 to the London elite.

Portsmouth's Irish duo of Enda Stevens and Brian Murphy helped Pompey to a deserved 2-2 draw with Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich.

Although, the former Ireland manager would strongly disagree with the opinion that Paul Cook’s side deserved the draw.

"I think they probably deserved to win - I thought they were excellent,” said McCarthy.

Former Galway United winger, Jay O’Shea, was on target as Chesterfield beat Rochdale 3-2, while Southend’s Irish contingent of Noel Hunt, David Mooney, Gary Deegan, Michael Timlin and Cian Bolger may have been a bit late home for tea on Saturday night as manager Phil Brown locked his side in the dressing room for two hours following the defeat.

The former Hull City manager is fond of a publicity stunt but having lost a two-goal lead en route to their third defeat on the trot, shipping 11 goals in the process, the perma-tanned gaffer may have been justified at the weekend. Safe to say Saturday’s trip to Swindon was not the best trip that Brown has ever been on.

Padraig Amond is making a name for himself in the English National League (formerly the Conference) as he is scoring goals for fun with new side Grimsby Town.

The former Sligo and Shamrock Rovers striker bagged a 13-minute hat-trick in their 4-0 victory over Welling (go to 11.15 in below video), which means the Carlow man has scored 14 goals in his last 11 games for Grimsby.

Amond is the league’s joint top scorer with 20 league goals already bagged this season. The in-form hit-man also got a shout-out on popular television show Soccer Am from comedian Lloyd Griffith, who believes that Amond should be a Balon D’Or nominee. (Yes, Griffith is a Grimsby fan).

Not forgetting our contingent Down Under, Andy Keogh is back for his second stint at Perth Glory and while the former Ireland goalscorer and Giovanni Trapattoni lucky charm played the full match, his side were beaten 3-1 by Adelaide.

Roy O'Donovan was not in action for his side, the Central Coast Mariners, as the former Cork City striker is serving the second-biggest A League ban of all time after he was hit with an eight-match suspension for a head-butt against Wellington on New Year's Eve.

“It’s going to be a stigma for the rest of my career, I have no doubt about it,” said O’Donovan.

“If I could take it back, I would ... it’s been the most stressful week in my football career.”

For what it's worth, Glory and the Mariners currently prop up the ten-team 'ladder' in ninth and tenth place respectively.

And finally... He may have finished his football career a few years back, but former Ireland international Mark Lawrenson got his tongue tied on Match of the Day on Saturday night with a new take on the pronunciation of Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar.

Take it away Lawro...