Promise Omochere was the Irish bolter in the last round of the FA Cup by sinking QPR and there’s further potential scalps in this weekend’s series. Sixteen fourth round ties feature a sprinkling of Irish and here will profile six of those fixtures where a Boy in Green could emulate what Omochere did for League One Fleetwood.
Just like his father Mark Kinsella, son Liam is a tidy, elegant midfielder prepared to go about his business in an efficient manner. Unlike his Dad, he’s stayed a lot longer at the Midlands club, claiming consecutive Player of the Year awards for his endeavours and his experience will be vital for today’s visit of Leicester City.
Oisin McEntee, a stalwart of the Ireland U21s that reached the Euro playoffs in September, is an addition for this season and the centre-back from Cavan can only hope that rotation facilitates his elevation to a starting slot. Striker Conor Wilkinson is another ex-Ireland underage cap to look out for.
Mick McCarthy’s first game at the helm is not the one he wanted as Championship survival is the mission he’s anxious to tuck into but this introduction against a manager he knows well, Nathan Jones, is a free hit. Andy Lyons and CJ Hamilton both started the last round victory over Nottingham Forest, with Hamilton finding the net, and as fringe players each can take it they’ll see action at St Mary’s Stadium. Saints goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu could do without another troublesome afternoon.
Troy Parrott’s ineligibility against his parent club Spurs and the departure of Sean Maguire to Coventry City on Thursday reduces the Irish colony’s presence for Preston but we can be sure the team captained by Alan Browne will fancy tipping Antonio Conte back into a tailspin. Fellow Irish Greg Cunningham and Robbie Brady were joined recently at Deepdale by loanees Tom Cannon and Liam Delap. Those strikers could have a role here.
Paul Ince’s return to Old Trafford is novel, as is a welcome comeback to a Premier League ground for Irish pair Shane Long and Jeff Hendrick. Long rattled the net in the last round, an impressive 2-0 victory over Watford, but they were well beaten last weekend at Stoke City. The Tipp man, at 36, is seeing out the twilight of his career in the Championship but Hendrick, like his friend Robbie Brady, is still pining for a top-flight return. Managers, rather than fans, seem to appreciate his talents better and how he performs against Casemiro might also provide an insight as to his current readiness for the juggernaut of France on March 27. There’s another Irish and United angle to the game as well, for the Royals’ chief scout is none other than Corkman Brian Carey.
There’s one Irish name dominating the UK scene at present and he’s got Liverpool in his sights. Questions about Evan Ferguson’s ability to hit Premier League standard have been answered in January with his glut of appearances and goals, most recently a sumptuous header that earned Brighton a late draw at Leicester City last week.
Having come on in that game, a start against the Reds is probable and Jurgen Klopp will have precise instructions on how to try to curb his influence. There was some surprise that another Irish Premier League debutant, Andy Moran, wasn’t involved in the last round, a 5-1 thumping away to Middlesbrough, but the playmaker could atone in this one.
Hollywood glitz shone a bit brighter on the Wrexham project in the third round when they dumped Coventry City out at the Ricoh Arena. They’re a National League team in name only, as well-heeled duo Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are serious investors. Thomas O’Connor and Anthony Forde could easily have stayed in the Football League before they signed up and the latter’s goal in the last round underlined the potential the 23-year-old carries with plenty of development still left. They’ll give John Egan & Co a rattle in North Wales.