The longest Premier League season in living memory has been an interesting one from an Irish perspective, especially when it comes to young talent making tentative first steps on the big stage.

But how did the English top flight's Irish contingent fare overall throughout the coronavirus pandemic-elongated 2019-20 season?

Based on a partial Leaving Cert grade system from A to C, taking into account how the season fits into the context of where each player is in their career (i.e. younger players won't be judged as harshly as more experienced names), here are the players who made at least one league appearance during the campaign.

Aston Villa

Hourihane was first in line to celebrate with Grealish after his final day goal at West Ham

Conor Hourihane - B

A part of the Villa squad that just about stayed up on the final day, the Cork native was solid and dependable in what was his first season in the top flight, having experienced life in all three divisions below that previously.

The midfielder wasn't always an automatic choice for Dean Smith but the 29-year-old did contribute when called upon, scoring three times and adding five assists - second only to Jack Grealish on that front - in 27 appearances.

All three goals came pre-lockdown against Newcastle and in two separate fixtures against Norwich. For a first Premier League campaign and in a struggling team, he was solid.


Abdoulaye Doucoure nets past Travers in January

Mark Travers - C

Having made an impressive debut against Tottenham at the end of last season, it was going to be interesting to see what sort of impression the Maynooth native was going to make this season.

However, the 21-year-old found himself behind the similarly youthful Aaron Ramsdale in the goalkeeping pecking order at Bournemouth.

Although, Travers did make five appearances across the season, just one came in the Premier League in a 3-0 loss to Watford back in January when Ramsdale was injured. It featured a wayward clearance for Abdoulaye Doucoure's opener for a Watford side that ultimately also went down.

He was rarely involved in the matchday squads across the season with Artur Boruc preferred on the bench as the cover option.

But he remains one for the future for both Ireland and Bournemouth, where he signed a contract last summer that runs until 2023.

isn't a reflection of on-field appearances given they were rare.


Connolly celebrates putting Tottenham to the sword

Aaron Connolly - A

While Roy Keane might have jokingly undermined the phrase "bursting onto the scene" while jousting with Micah Richards on punditry duty, it would be an apt description of what Aaron Connolly did at club level last October.

The Galwegian announced himself to the Premier League - and to those who hadn't been keeping a close eye on Stephen Kenny's impressive Ireland Under-21s - with a two-goal salvo against Tottenham with his direct running causing a tremor through a Spurs defence that had been playing in a Champions League final just months earlier.

A senior Ireland call-up would follow soon after. While the goals at club level didn't flow again until this Sunday when he scored against Burnley, the 20-year-old remained a regular presence in the Brighton team throughout the season, including setting up Neal Maupay's winner against Arsenal and being a selfless presence and runner, especially in the channels.

Given the context of his tender age, the fact that it's his debut top flight season, and the ensuing impact as someone who is not an out and out centre-forward, it's an A.

Danny Rose and Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy - C

The change in manager from Chris Hughton to Graham Potter, coupled with a change of system and emphasis, did not benefit the towering centre-back in the end.

The Derry native went from a regular starter to falling down the defensive pecking order at the Seagulls more often during this Premier League season.

However, he still made 19 league appearances, scoring against Norwich in November and ultimately played the full 90 minutes on 12 occasions, although only one of those came after the season resumed in June.

What the future holds for the international first-choice at club level is unclear. C


Robbie Brady - C

Since making a goalscoring debut against Chelsea in February 2017, injuries mean Burnley have not seen the best of the versatile Ireland midfielder.

While he did make 17 league appearances across the season, very few of those were starts and none featured a full 90 minutes as he missed vast swathes of the campaign.

He did score against Manchester City in a 4-1 loss and provided two assists in another defeat to Chelsea but otherwise his eyes will be on reigniting his career next season after extending his contract until the summer of 2021.

A C but not as much to do with on-field performances, rather a reflection of it not being a vintage season due to the impact of injury.

Hendrick and Brady challenge Harry Kane

Jeff Hendrick - B

Until it became abundantly clear that Brady's childhood St Kevin's Boys team-mate would not sign a new deal with Burnley, Hendrick had been a key part of Burnley manager Sean Dyche's midfield options.

His willingness to slot in wherever needed, whether it was in his favoured central role or in a wider position, was certainly appreciated by his boss who was keen to keep him at Turf Moor and was one of the reasons why links with a free transfer to Serie A emerged.

In all, he made made 24 league appearances before the season was postponed in March, playing a full 90 minutes in all but six. 

Goals against Brighton and Everton arrived early in the season, sparking hope that the Ireland midfielder would add an extra dimension to his game but in the end, two more assists would be all that he would add statistically before his contract situation led to his non-involvement after June and eventual departure. 

The prolific Raul Jimenez (L) vies with Kevin Long

Kevin Long - B

The defender's fortunes have certainly changed for the better since the Premier League's resumption last month. 

Before a 20-minute cameo against Crystal Palace on 29 June, the Corkman had only featured for two minutes in the league all season, mostly due to the existing partnership of captain Ben Mee and James Tarkowski.

But since then, Long started six games in a row in the absence of Mee as Burnley saw out the season with a top half finish, helping to marshall a defence that conceded just five goals in that run of games. 

Crystal Palace

McCarthy and Martial choreograph keeping their eyes on the ball

James McCarthy - B

Due to a succession of injuries, the former Everton midfielder has not featured for Ireland for four years. But since last December, McCarthy has not missed a match for Crystal Palace, even managing a run of five 90 minute appearances in a row from late December to the end of January.

He also started the Eagles final three games of a busy post-lockdown period, albeit in a Palace side that had started to go off the boil in the final weeks of the campaign.

But all in all, he made 33 appearances in the league. Compare that to the 34 he totalled over the three previous seasons, then this campaign can be deemed a personal success for McCarthy in that context with an international recall likely in the Autumn.


Coleman has retained the captaincy under Ancelotti

Seamus Coleman - C

It was a strange season for Everton whose spending power promised a finish far higher than 12th. Coleman captained the Toffees through a cycle that saw Marco Silva sacked, replaced briefly by caretaker Duncan Ferguson and bookended with an elite name in Carlo Ancelotti guiding the club through an up and down conclusion.

The Donegal native status was occasionally threatened by the summer signing on loan of French World Cup winner Djibril Sidibe in the battle for the right-back berth as the season wore on, with Coleman finishing with 27 appearances in the league.

But it wasn't a vintage campaign by his or Everton's standards, with just one assist - a disappointment given how strong has been in the attacking side of his play traditionally, compared to Sidibe's four on that count.


An injury against Arsenal ended Clark's season prematurely

Ciaran Clark - B

The defender had been a regular for Steve Bruce before an ankle injury curtailed his campaign at the halfway stage, having made 14 league showings, most of them as a starter.

Clark's best moments of the campaign came in consecutive games when he scored against West Ham and Bournemouth in narrow wins for a Newcastle side who weren't quite as self-assured of their Premier League status as they would be later in the season. 


Farke has eased Idah in

Adam Idah - B

A debut campaign in the Premier League for the youngster as Daniel Farke eased him into the first-team picture. 

His best moment came away from the league when he plundered a hat-trick in the FA Cup against Preston North End in January.

But the 19-year-old did begin to make inroads into the league side during the summer resumption, making appearances in all nine final games as the Canaries' campaign ended with a whimper. 

While they were brief cameos, aided by the tweak to the substitution rule, he was unfortunate not to score his first Premier League goal against Brighton as his effort at an equaliser hit the post late on. Very much one for the future for club and country. 

Sheffield United

John Egan - A

When the Munsterman scored his first goal at Premier League level with an excellent volleyed finish against Burnley in early July, his manager jokingly mentioned that he should have had many more before then.

Well, the Ireland defender did not wait around as he went on to add another goal to his collection against Wolves just three days later.

More importantly for Sheffield United, his contribution has been more telling at the back where he has anchored a back-three system featuring overlapping centre-backs either side of him to an unexpected top half finish. A near ever present, he has missed just two league games and the only lowlight was a red card against Newcastle just after the resumption. But otherwise an outstanding campaign. 

McGoldrick and Egan had a season to remember

David McGoldrick - B

'Didzy', as he is popularly referred to, is a manager's dream and certainly for Chris Wilder, the Ireland striker's work-rate and selfless running was something he looked to rely on.

The 32-year-old has already signed a new contract with the Blades and will look to build on a season that saw him make 28 league appearances.

The one area he struggled with was goals, although two did come in a thrashing of Chelsea earlier this month. But given earlier career struggles and how far he has come to earn his dream of scoring at Premier League level, it's a at the very least and arguably more, depending on how highly you value goals.

Callum Robinson - C

A part of Sheffield United's plans last Autumn, he instead became a promotion hero for West Brom last week on the Championship final day as the loanee's goal helped secure a top two finish.

On the flipside, his Premier League cameo lasted 16 games, with minutes decreasing as he moved closer to a loan move away. 

One goal did arrive against Chelsea last August but that was as good as it got for him. Judging solely on the Premier League, it's a C, given he dropped down a level temporarily before the season ended.

Stevens played in all 38 league games

Enda Stevens - A

One of the best left-backs in the division, albeit in a more advanced wing-back role, the Ireland international shone consistently for a Blades side that punched above its weight.

Indeed, he started every single Premier League game for Sheffield United this season, managing 90 minutes in all but two fixtures and weighed in with two goals and four assists across the season. A very easy A.


Shane Long - C

Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl certainly appreciates the Tipp man like all his managers have due to his energy and enthusiasm, evidenced by giving the forward a new deal that will run until 2022. 

But his present status is that of a squad player, finding himself behind Danny Ings, Michael Obafemi and latterly Che Adams in the pecking order up front at St Mary's.

Two goals came in 26 appearances, with 11 of those showings off the bench. He had more starts prior to the coronvirus lockdown before becoming more of an impact option in June and July. 

L to R Will Smallbone, Ryan Bertrand, Shane Long, Michael Obafemi and Yan Valery

Michael Obafemi - B

He has been entrusted with eight starts this season within a 21 appearance haul. Once he got going, Obafemi did show a penchant for scoring goals in big games as he did against Chelsea and Manchester United, with those two contributing to the 20-year-old's three for the campaign. He also contributed two assists against Norwich and Bournemouth.

Like Connolly at fellow south coast Brighton, he is one for the future but already showing signs of potential in the present at a tender age. 

Will Smallbone - B

The English-born midfielder is the latest to emerge from the Southampton academy and has been capped at Ireland Under-19 level.

The youngster made his Saints debut against Aston Villa in February and has since amassed nine appearances, weighing in with two assists. 


Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur (R) embraces Troy Parrott after his PL debut

Troy Parrott - B

On the plus side, he is still 18 and did make a couple of Premier League appearances, albeit a total of six minutes as a late substitute against Burnley and Wolves in the winter.

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho clearly does not view him as ready, even during a point in the season when Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were injured, leaving a void in attack.

It's a case of wait and see when it comes to the Dubliner with next season likely to give a better indication of how he is viewed at Tottenham in the shorter term. A given his age and the fact that he has at least made his first tentative steps in the top flight.

West Ham

Darren Randolph - C

The Ireland number one spent the first half of the season at Middlesbrough but with West Ham in need of a stand-in following an injury to Fabianski, Randolph returned to the Hammers to provide cover.

That resulted in just two Premier League appearances in January against Everton (1-1) and Leicester (1-4). Judged solely on the Premier League, it's a due to lack of opportunities.


Doherty in action on the final day

Matt Doherty - A

An integral part of a Wolves team that threatened to break into the top four pack, the former Bohemians right back was excellent again and for a defender, ended up being the highest scoring Irishman in this season's Premier League.

Coupled with four assists in a season when he also had to balance playing in the Europa League where he also scored twice, it was an excellent return for the Dubliner as he stakes his claim to be Ireland's right-back under Stephen Kenny. 

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