Irish players in the SPL Set For Big Kick Off
The SPL kicks off this weekend and fifteen Irishmen are likely to take part in the opening fixtures. John Hislop looks at how the Irish contingent have performed during the close season and examines who is likely to make an impression in the next nine months.
Irish football fans will be interested in the Dundee United versus Hibs game as potentially seven Irishmen could take part. Before that, the Arabs take on Dinamo Moskva (UEFA Europa League 3rd Round Qualifier 1st leg) at Tannadice with some help from Michael Gardyne’s pal Aiden McGeady who has passed on his knowledge of the Russian team.
Four Irishmen took part in the club’s recent derby win over Dundee at Dens Park, with captain Jon Daly scoring a memorable hat trick. Sean Dillon ,Willo Flood and Richie Ryan also started the game and are likely to be first choices for Peter Houston’s team when available.
Tim Clancy is another likely starter alongside Eoin Doyle in the Hibs side. Clancy kicked off his Easter Road career at East Fife where he scored a stunning free kick to endear himself to the Easter Road fans. Doyle has featured in most of the pre-season games, but has yet to open his account for the campaign. Pat Fenlon’s new 4-2-3-1 system leaves Doyle as an attacking left sided midfield player with new on-loan signing Leigh Griffiths as the lone striker.
Pat Fenlon also hopes to have experienced versatile defender Alan Maybury on the books and talks are on-going between the player and the board to thrash out a deal. Maybury has also featured in most of the pre-season games and came on as a second half substitute against Huddersfield on Saturday.
Jonny Hayes has already made an impression during pre-season, with his lightning pace in Aberdeen’s 1-0 friendly defeat against Werder Bremen. He has been used sparingly and started Saturday’s game on the bench, coming on as a substitute in the second half as the Dons prepare for their opening fixture away at Champions Celtic.
It looks as though he won’t be facing Anthony Stokes who was carried off on a stretcher in the first half of the friendly against Inter Milan at Parkhead on Saturday, after blocking a clearance from Esteban Cambiasso. The injury which appears to be a badly sprained ankle makes Stokes a serious doubt for the Champion’s League qualifying round against HJK Helsinki on Wednesday.
Stokes’ team-mate Daryl Murphy appears to be out of Neil Lennon’s plans and was offered to Ipswich last month for a cut price deal however the deal fell through.
Inverness Caledonian’s Richie Foran scored a penalty in the club’s friendly win over Coventry City whilst fellow countryman Aaron Doran also took part.
Kilmarnock striker Paul Heffernan is currently injured and is a major doubt for the opening fixture against Dundee at Rugby Park.
Darren Randolph continues to be first choice in the Motherwell goal and is looking forward to the club’s Champion’s League qualifying round fixture against Greek giants Panathinaikos tomorrow at Fir Park. A large crowd is expected for the Steelmen’s first ever game in this competition.
Kurtis Byrne is currently with Ross County in the Netherlands for their pre-season tour ahead of their first top flight campaign, and hopes to get his career back on track after being released by Hibs.
David Van Zanten continues to be a first choice for Danny Lennon’s St Mirren, but captain Jim Goodwin had to be content to sit on the bench for Saturday’s defeat to Carlisle as he will be suspended for the opening game of the season against Inverness at New Love Street. Former Celtic player Graham Carey has not featured in the pre-season games and is unlikely to start on Saturday.
Irish News Review will continue to monitor how the Irish players are performing throughout the season.