Sunday 16 June 2019

Who's playing where?

Apart from Steve Finnan and his uncertain status with La Liga side Espanyol, we have no one flying the Irish flag in the big leagues of Italy, Germany, Spain or Portugal these days.

But there is a small, hardy band of Irish footballers who are earning a living and trying to make progress outside of what is called "these islands".

Over in BELGIUM, former international Dominic Foley is in his fourth season with Gent but the Cork native is on the move in the summer as he's signed a pre-contract agreement for next season with rival Belgian outfit Cercle Bruges and Foley is happy to see out his career in Belgium.

Believe it or not, FINLAND had an Irish representative last season as ex-Sheffield United man Travis Binnion, holder of four Irish U19 caps, spent the year with top flight club Marienham. Over the border in NORWAY, American-born forward Joey Lapira, capped at senior level by Steve Staunton in 2007, lined out for second division side Nybergsund last season and he's signed up for another season with them for 2009.

Football in GERMANY also has an Irish influence as Patrick Kohlmann, capped five times at U21 level by Ireland via the parentage rule, is still playing, this time with FC Union Berlin, a side currently in second place in the German second division and hopeful of promotion to the top flight.

The top division in HOLLAND features a man who has played at underage level for Ireland, but FC Utrecht star Barry Maguire is sadly now committed to playing for his native Holland.

Former Bolton Wanderers man Matt Cassidy, another ex-youth cap, is now in CYPRUS with midtable side Paralimini.

In ITALY, we have the Irish teenage pair of Conor McCormack and Michael Collins, currently learning their trade on a one-year contract in the youth team of Serie B side Triestina. And let's not forget far-flung AZERBAIJAN where Dubliner Joe Kendrick has found himself, playing for Neftchi Baku this year after his exit from Drogheda United.

And at underage level there is a small band players, not born in Ireland, who have a long way to go in the game but have already been scouted out by Ireland, winning youth caps for the Republic though the parentage rule.

They are based in GERMANY (Selcuk Tidim, aged 17, playing for St Pauli), NORWAY (Sean McDermott, 16, now with lower-league club FC Vag but linked with Arsenal) and FINLAND (Patrick O'Shaughnessy, 15 and his brother Daniel, 14).

The O'Shaughnessy brothers have just moved from small outfit FC Honka to major side HJK Helsinki, while English clubs are tracking the pair, with Patrick spending time on trial at Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers offering Daniel a trial. They have been capped at underage level by Finland (Daneil played for Finland's U17s against Northern Ireland last year) but their Irish-born dad has made the FAI aware of their progress and they could end up in the green jersey.

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