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Time to turn green into gold in 20/21

Doherty's move is welcome but the fate of young Irish talent lies in hands of Premier club bosses

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Shane Duffy, left, and Matt Doherty of the Republic of Ireland ahead of the UEFA Nations League B match between Bulgaria and Republic of Ireland at Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria last week

Shane Duffy, left, and Matt Doherty of the Republic of Ireland ahead of the UEFA Nations League B match between Bulgaria and Republic of Ireland at Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria last week

SPORTSFILE

Shane Duffy, left, and Matt Doherty of the Republic of Ireland ahead of the UEFA Nations League B match between Bulgaria and Republic of Ireland at Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria last week

Before a ball has been kicked in the new Premier League season, there is a glimmer of hope, from the sight of a tricolour being placed at the heart of the English game.

Matt Doherty's move to Spurs from Wolves was a couple of firsts from an Irish viewpoint: the first player from the Republic of Ireland signed by Jose Mourinho in his 20-year managerial career; and he will be the first Irish player at a top-six club in a long time.

Stephen Kenny, and by extension Irish football, can only hope that the warm glow from an off season with good news stories can hold over the crucial four weeks between now and the trip to Bratislava.

The Premier League has been a cold place for Irish talent for a decade, the only relief coming from the likes of Sheffield United and Doherty's stunning spell at Wolves. Doherty's elevation to a new plane with that transfer to Spurs will, hopefully, see him meet the challenge of leaving his comfort zone and proving himself to a more critical audience.

Pressures

Matt Doherty (Wolves to Spurs), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley to Newcastle) and Callum Robinson (loan from Sheffield United to West Brom made permanent) made upward moves in their careers, while Troy Parrot's loan spell at Millwall, away from the clutches of Mourinho and the pressures of Tottenham, could also be good news.

The fast-paced, pandemic-related nature of last season's conclusion opened the door to the Premier League even wider for younger ones, like the Southampton trio of Obafemi, Smallbone and Ferry.

And it's less than seven weeks since Aaron Connolly scored in the final game of last season's Premier League while Dara O'Shea impressed for West Brom as they won promotion.

How much football they get over the coming weeks, and the season to come, is the big concern.

If Doherty's €16m move to Spurs shook things up for Irish players on the transfer market, this country needs a mixture of two things to happen if Doherty is not cast adrift as a rare good news story.

Kenny needs his established men (Hendrick, Brady, McCarthy, McGoldrick) to get game time, needs the rusty ones (Randolph, Ciaran Clark, Scott Hogan) to either get games or follow the loan route taken by Shane Duffy.

And he also needs club managers to trust the youth, give Jayson Molumby, Michael Obafemi and Aaron Connolly their wings.

Kenny is immediately held back by the fact that he can't travel to England to watch games.

Brian Kerr, in his time as manager of the senior side, once managed to attend three games in the English leagues in one day, while Giovanni Trapattoni was more relaxed, happy to rely on his TV feed in Milan and judge his players with remote control in hand, not from the directors' box of the Hawthorns or Elland Road.

Kenny can at least have a focus on the players available to him at this level, a small number.

Across the Premier League programme tomorrow and on Sunday, only six of his players are realistically in contention to start (Cyrus Christie, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, Callum Robinson, Matt Doherty and Seamus Coleman).

Go back a decade and Trapattoni was well and truly spoiled.

On the opening weekend of the 2010/11 Premier League season, 14 players from the Republic played for their clubs.

Kenny would relish having that pool of talent available but he also knows that time has moved on in ten years: from the clubs who played in the Premier League in that 2010/11 season, four (Sunderland, Wigan, Blackpool and Bolton) aren't even in the Championship now, let alone the Premier League so these are changed times.

Progress by Doherty and Hendrick will be welcome but for a lasting effect, Kenny needs to see Connolly, Molumby, Obafemi and Smallbone get time on the pitch and now stagnate in the stands.

Ireland's Premier League men

Arsenal: none

Aston Villa: Conor Hourihane, Scott Hogan.

Brighton: Aaron Connolly, Jayson Molumby.

Burnley: Robbie Brady, Kevin Long.

Chelsea: none.

Crystal Palace: James McCarthy.

Everton: Seamus Coleman.

Fulham: Cyrus Christie.

Leeds United: none.

Leicester City: none.

Liverpool: none.

Manchester City: none.

Manchester United: none.

Newcastle United: Jeff Hendrick, Ciaran Clark.

Sheffield United: Enda Stevens, John Egan, David McGoldrick.

Southampton: Shane Long, Michael Obafemi, Will Smallbone.

Tottenham: Matt Doherty.

West Brom: Dara O'Shea, Callum Robinson.

West Ham: Darren Randolph, Josh Cullen.

Wolves: none.