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Tuesday 11 December 2018

It's tough at the bottom for Irish

Graham Burke. Pic: Sportsfile
Graham Burke. Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland forward Graham Burke turned 25 yesterday.

That was a welcome reason to celebrate as, like most of his co-workers at Preston North End these days, there's been little joy for the ex-Shamrock Rovers man of late.

It's a similar, gloomy tale four hours down the motorways of England to Reading, where that club's Irish contingent (Paul McShane, John O'Shea, David Meyler) are also struggling to cope with life at the wrong end of the Championship.

With just five points each from eight games, Reading and Preston find themselves in the bottom two of the Championship, only Ipswich below them in the standings, and you have two managers (Alex Neil at Preston and Paul Clement at Reading) already under serious pressure.

It's not so long ago that Preston was seen as a vibrant hub of Irish talent, potentially five players from the Republic in the starting line-up every week.

But that Irish colony has been diluted by players being sold (Greg Cunningham; Daryl Horgan) or being shipped out on loan (Andy Boyle; Kevin O'Connor), with only Burke and Alan Browne now in the side.

Reading was a similar story, though with a different age profile, as O'Shea (37) and Meyler (29) moved there in the summer to join McShane (32).

O'Shea needed to leave Sunderland and get a fresh start following their relegation, Meyler was unloved at Hull and also needed to find a safe home.

But the move has not been good to them: O'Shea has yet to play in the league for a struggling Royals side, Meyler has yet to complete 90 minutes and was replaced after an hour in his last appearance; Royals fans yet to be wowed by the Cork native.

O'Shea has suffered successive relegations in the last two seasons, and the Waterford man would dread to have a three in a row on his CV.

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