No matter what happens in the Euro 2020 play-offs, Mick McCarthy's reign as manager will be over by August, when Stephen Kenny takes the gig.

The current Under-21 boss will be well aware of the talent he'll have at his disposal, particularly the young guns who are beginning to flourish.

We picked out 20 of the most promising Irish talents to keep tabs on in the new year. 

The kids are alright.

1. LUCA CONNELL
AGE: 18
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: Celtic

The Liverpool-born midfielder was thrust into the limelight when Mick McCarthy called him into the senior Ireland panel for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Denmark and Gibraltar back in May.

Then plying his trade at Bolton, he linked up with the squad for a training camp in Portugal, impressing everyone with his attitude and comfort among the senior pros.

Connell was unfortunate to suffer a thigh strain that forced him to pull out of camp but a move to Celtic followed soon after. Though he's had to bide his time for first-team opportunities, he's been quietly impressing for the reserves. 

2. MICHAEL OBAFEMI
AGE: 19
POSITION: FORWARD
CLUB: SOUTHAMPTON

One of Martin O'Neill's last acts as Ireland boss was to cap pacey attacker Obafemi, his appearance in a dour 0-0 Nations League stalemate against Denmark giving supporters a badly needed good news story.

He hasn't kicked on as much as he'd have liked in the year since. Saints manager Ralp Hasenhuttl even went as far as to suggest Obafemi "still has a lack of professionalism in his whole life". But the teenager responded really well to that kick up the backside, bending home a terrific solo goal at Chelsea on St Stephen's Day to underline his potential.

He's at a club with a very good reputation for developing young talent. If he can avoid injuries and find some consistency, 2020 could be a huge year for him.

3. JONATHAN AFOLABI 
AGE: 19
POSITION: FORWARD
CLUB CELTIC

Having just departed Southampton, Afolabi was a free agent when he headed to the European Championships in Armenia with the Ireland Under-19s last July. A string of terrific displays turned the heads of a lot of scouts - he was named in the team of the tournament - and by August he was at Celtic with Connell. 

Afolabi has yet to break into Neil Lennon's first team but he is knocking on the door. A raw attacker with loads of potential, there's a lot more to come. 

4. GAVIN BAZUNU
AGE: 17
POSITION: GOALKEEPER
CLUB: MANCHESTER CITY

It feels like the Shamrock Rovers academy product has been around for ages, and yet he's still just 17 years of age. It's a year since he made the move across the water and Bazunu's progress has been impressive.

Pep Guardiola put him on the bench for the friendly against Yokohama during City's pre-season tour of Asia last summer, and Stephen Kenny elevated him to the Ireland Under-21s in November, handing him his debut in the qualifier win against Armenia. A huge talent with time on his side. 

5. TROY PARROTT 
AGE: 17
POSITION: FORWARD
CLUB: TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Probably the most talked about young Irish footballer since Robbie Keane. Since September, Parrot has made his Spurs first-team debut, his Ireland Under-21s debut and his Ireland senior debut. It already feels like he's been around for an age but the best is yet to come from this hugely talented Dubliner. 

Fears that Mauricio Pochettino's departure would stunt his progress at Tottenham may prove premature. Jose Mourinho gave him his league bow in the 5-0 mauling of Burnley, handing Parrott the match ball afterwards. His temperament is as impressive as his immense ability.

6. CONOR COVENTRY 
AGE: 19
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: WEST HAM UNITED 

The Republic of Ireland Under-21 midfielder is the captain of West Ham's Under-23s and has already featured twice for the first team. There's been whispers he could leave in January after the player butted heads with the club during contract negotiations.

If he does leave a club he's been with since he was ten, there'll be no shortage of offers. Several teams are keeping tabs on the London-born teenager.

7. LEE O'CONNOR 
AGE: 19
POSITION: DEFENDER
CLUB: CELTIC 

This "very impressive young man" - Martin O'Neill's words - has already broken the mould by making his senior international debut before playing for the first team at his club. 

Versatile, tough and composed, O'Connor looks made for top-level football. Nonetheless, O'Connor moved to Scotland to get first-team football so he'll be hoping to break into a really strong Celtic outfit sooner rather than later. More opportunities at senior international level may not come until the Kenny reign begins in earnest.

8. TIMI SOBOWALE 
AGE: 17
POSITION: DEFENDER

CLUB: MANCHESTER CITY

Waterford defender Sobowale signed for Manchester City in the summer of 2018. His surname might ring a bell with LOI fans - older brother Tunmise is on the books at Waterford United.

Timi is one of a quartet of underage Irish internationals trying to stand out at City, along with Gavin Bazunu, Tyreke Wilson and Joe Hodge. He actually played a few games for Spurs Under-16s before going to City and spent a few weeks on trial with Blackburn Rovers in the run-up to Christmas. He's a cultured footballer and is capable of playing right across the back line.

9. ADAM IDAH
AGE: 18
POSITION: FORWARD
CLUB: NORWICH

Idah has gone from strength to strength under Stephen Kenny's guidance with the Ireland Under-21s but he may need to get out of Carrow Road on a loan spell to maintain that progress at club level.

He made his first-team debut in August in the Carabao Cup against Crawley Town, but had a tough night at the office, deflecting Beryly Lubala's strike into his own net for Crawley's winning goal and missing a couple of decent chances at the other end. Idah was hard on himself after that game but it was nothing more than a learning curve - he has all the tools to operate at the top. 

10. JAYSON MOLUMBY
AGE: 20
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (on loan at Millwall) 

Of all the young talents Kenny is nurturing, Molumby is probably the one that's impressed the most in a green jersey. The Waterford midfielder is flourishing in the Championship at Millwall, where he's on a season-long loan, and has proven to be a fan favourite for his high-energy, combative and intelligent play.

He's simply a magnet for the ball. Under Kenny, Molumby's international rise could be accelerated as long as he keep up his current progress. A great prospect. 

11. DANNY MANDROIU 
AGE: 21
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: BOHEMIAN FC

One of the most naturally gifted footballers in the Premier Division, Mandroiu moved back to Dublin after a spell with Brighton last December and proved to be a revelation at Dalymount.

He's played his part in Kenny's Under-21s' fine start to their European Championships qualification campaign, though he'll want more minutes in the new year. A silky footballer who's capable of producing match-winning moments of magic and is blessed with awareness and technical class. 

12. MARK TRAVERS
AGE: 20
POSITION: GOALKEEPER
CLUB: BOURNEMOUTH

Travers made a dream Premier League debut in a 1-0 win against Spurs last May and Bournemouth showed just how highly they rate the Maynooth stopper by offering him a fresh long-term contract in July.

A senior Ireland debut followed, in the friendly defeat of Bulgaria, and though first-team opportunities at the Vitality Stadium have been limited due to the good form of Aaron Ramsdale, Travers is highly valued. 

13. NATHAN COLLINS
AGE: 18
POSITION: DEFENDER
CLUB: STOKE CITY

He wrote himself into the history book sin August when he became Stoke City's youngest ever captain in their Carabao Cup first-round win at Wigan.

The centre-half attracted interest from Manchester United over the summer - due to a glowing appraisal from Darren Fletcher - before the Potters tied him down to a new five-year contract. He's fully expected to establish himself as a key man for the Championship club this term. He was sent off in the League Cup loss to Crawley Town in September with injuries stunting his progress thereafter, but boss Michael O'Neill has declared his intention to get Collins back in the first team more consistently.

Stoke's awful form prior to O'Neill's arrival means they need to get away from the Championship drop zone first and foremost and that makes it harder for a young player - particularly in his position - to get a chance. Still, he's so highly thought of that O'Neill might just throw him back in at the deep end.

14. DARA O'SHEA
AGE: 20
POSITION: DEFENDER
CLUB: WEST BROM

It's been a great twelve months for O'Shea. The Baggies sent him out on loan to League Two Exeter City last season where he thrived. That taste of competitive football has hardened the Dubliner.

He made his league debut off the bench in their 1-1 draw with Brentford just before Christmas and earned huge praise from manager Slaven Bilic for his display. "Dara is the future, and he can be present," he said. "He is one of the reasons why when I came to the club we didn't sign another defender. I believe in him. I love Dara."

West Brom are flying in the league and could be a Premier League outfit come May. O'Shea is in the right environment to stay on an upward curve.

15. AARON CONNOLLY
AGE: 19
POSITION: FORWARD
CLUB: BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION

What a year it's been for the Galway man. Connolly had been forging a strong reputation at the Seagulls with consistently excellent showing in the Premier League 2 (effectively an Under-23s division) but when his chance came with the big boys he seized it spectacularly.  

A memorable brace against Spurs well and truly put him in the spotlight and it's not a stretch to say that Connolly - in a remarkably short period - is now crucial to the Republic of Ireland's hopes of making it the Euros. His impact has been that considerable. He turns 20 at the end of January and already looks destined for a long career at the top. 

16. ZACK ELBOUZEDI 
AGE: 21

POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: LINCOLN CITY

Elbouzedi probably needed a move away from Waterford at this point of his career and he got it at the start of December.

League One Lincoln City see his capture as a real coup. Michael Appleton's men are hoping the tricky winger can give them a shot in the arm heading into the second half of the campaign, while Elbouzedi will benefit form being in a solid professional set-up.

Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers both wanted Elbouzedi, who might take inspiration from Ronan Curtis. He went to Portsmouth, also in League One, in May 2018 and has proven a massive hit with the south-coast club. 

17. JOE HODGE
AGE: 17
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: MANCHESTER CITY

Hodge has represented England at Under-16 and Under-17 level, which will concern Irish fans for obvious reasons. At some point he'll have a decision to make but for now he's shining in green as a supremely classy midfielder operator.

Stephen Kenny has described him as "a classic natural midfield player... he takes great angles to receive the ball, and has great feet, good vision and a range of passing". Slight in stature but wiry and tough, Hodge is a very gifted footballer with the capacity to get better and better.

18. CONNOR RONAN
AGE: 21
POSITION: MIDFIELDER 
CLUB: WOLVES (on loan at
 Dunajska Streda)

He came off the bench to inspire the Ireland Under-21s to a thrilling 4-1 defeat of Sweden in November and showed the wider Irish public just what he's capable of in the process.

Ronan is in Slovakia with Dunajska Streda, where he moved to on loan from Wolves last February. That's been a positive switch for the Rochdale-born midfielder, who has played for England Under-17s. At his age he needed to get to a club who'd give a run of first-team games and he's much improved for it.    

19. GAVIN KILKENNY 
AGE: 19
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: BOURNEMOUTH

Having stood out for Bournemouth's Under-21s last season, Eddie Howe elevated winger Kilkenny to the first team for their pre-season trip to Spain in July. He made his full debut in the Carabao Cup win against Forest Green Rovers and was on the bench for game at Spurs at the end of November. Kilkenny signed a fresh long-term deal soon after with the Cherries chief executive Neill Blake declaring: "This is just the start for him."

It's been a good year for Kilkenny. More chances with the first team and continued involvement with the Ireland Under-21s will be his main goals for 2020.

20. JASON KNIGHT
AGE: 18
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: DERBY COUNTY

Philip Cocu has given Knight a handful of opportunities in the Championship this campaign and he's liked what he's seen. "He's high energy, he likes to press, and I think he did very well," the Dutchman said after the 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday before Christmas.

The Rams have endured a difficult season and are languishing in the lower half of the table but the Cabinteely teenager is making big strides, bagging a brace against Charlton in a 2-1 win just after Christmas. The midfielder is another one developing under Stephen Kenny's watchful eye. He made his first start for the Under-21s in November's 1-0 win in Armenia. 

And one more to monitor...

RYAN JOHANSSON 
AGE: 18
POSITION: MIDFIELDER
CLUB: BAYERN MUNICH

Raised in Luxembourg by a Swedish father and an Irish mother, Ryan Johansson is not short of international options. He played two friendlies for Tom Mohan's Ireland Under-19s last year but because he featured competitively for Luxembourg at international level before before he acquired Irish citizenship, Johansson is being prevented form playing for the Boys in Green by FIFA.

Their rule over eligibility states a player can request to change their national team as long as "he already had the nationality of the representative team for which he wishes to play".

That is a source of enormous frustration for Johansson. He wants to play for Ireland, and given how highly the languid centre-midfielder is rated at Bayern Munich, his acquisition would be a real boost.

For now though, we'll have to wait and see how this complicated saga plays out before getting excited about how he might figure in Stephen Kenny's plans.