By Oisín Bradley
The World Cup qualifiers are looming large for the Irish national team, and many Galwegians will likely be under Stephen Kenny’s microscope as he looks to finalise his squad for the upcoming clashes with Serbia and Luxembourg.
Here, we will be examining the form of many of our local talents as they look to make an impact on the trajectory of their clubs and put themselves in the shop window ahead of a busy international window.
Conor Shaughnessy – Rochdale
Conor Shaughnessy’s spell at Rochdale has shown little signs of improvement, and he has struggled to turn around a torrid season for the Spotland outfit. The Dale have recorded a measly two points out of a possible 18 since the Galwegian’s arrival from Leeds United in late January, although in Shaughnessy’s defence he was involved in both games.
Shaughnessy was in from the first whistle as Rochdale recorded a 0-0 draw at home to Plymouth Argyle. Three days later, Shaughnessy started again in midfield as his side were involved in a 0-0 draw again, this time on the road to bottom club Northampton Town in Sixfields Stadium.
That’s about as good as it’s got for Rochdale, who blew the chance to open up a six-point gap on the relegation zone in a 0-2 defeat to Burton Albion. Shaughnessy started once again and was subbed for Conor Grant 72 minutes in as The Dale tasted an all-too-similar feeling of defeat.
The two-goal defeat to Burton Albion sees both sides move level on points and providing the men from the Pirelli Stadium get a single point from their two games on hand, Rochdale will be dropping below the watermark and into the relegation zone.
Greg Cunningham – Preston North End
Cunningham is a man who seems to have settled in well in his second spell at Preston and is getting plenty of game time under Alex Neil. The former Mervue United man did not have the best return to his former club Cardiff City, as Preston North End were swiped aside with consummate ease in Wales in a 4-0 defeat. Cunningham played the full game for his new side against the promotion-chasing Bluebirds.
Another full 90 minutes followed for Cunningham, and a 0-0 draw vs Queens’ Park Rangers was the result as Preston looked to bounce back from the Cardiff defeat on home turf. It was a much-improved result in late February, as a swashbuckling Cardiff City powered to a 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town, in a game where Cunningham recorded a clean sheet and another 90 minutes on the pitch.
Preston North End sit comfortably in mid-table currently, with nine points separating themselves and the top six.
Daryl Horgan – Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe’s woes are continuing as they sit rooted to the base of the Championship, and one man who has played a key part Gareth Ainsworth’s charges is Horgan. Horgan played 14 minutes of a scoreless draw at The Den against Millwall, coming on in the 76th minute for Gareth McCleary, before being benched for a 1-0 win over Reading at Adams Park.
That 1-0 win proved to only be a brief respite from the regular running order, as a 2-0 defeat to Norwich City followed at home. Horgan came on in the 68th minute of the clash, replacing Anis Mehmeti.
Wycombe now sit a monstrous eleven points from safety with the majority of the season played and will likely be spending the off-season preparing for another season in League One.
Ryan Manning – Swansea City
Swansea City have been enjoying a promising season in the Championship this season and look well-placed to secure promotion to the top tier of English football. That said, it is unfortunate for both Galway and Ireland that Ryan Manning has contributed very little to his side’s good fortunes.
Manning has made only seven league appearances for the Swans this season, and has only been on the winning team twice, recording a solitary assist in the campaign. The Galway man made an appearance from the bench, replacing Jake Bidwell in Swansea’s trip to take on Huddersfield town.
Unfortunately, when Manning took to the pitch much of the damage had already been done, and Swansea headed back to South Wales with a 4-1 defeat. Fellow Irish international Conor Hourihane scored his side’s only goal of the game.
Manning was forced to watch on from the bench for the next two fixtures, as Swansea recorded a 1-0 victory over Coventry and a 1-3 loss against Bristol City at the Ashton Gate Stadium.
Swansea City are currently fourth in the Championship and will be looking to leapfrog those ahead of them into the automatic promotion places.
Aaron Connolly – Brighton and Hove Albion
Aaron Connolly is another man for whom minutes have been few and far between this season, and the former Mervue man has found Premier League minutes hard to come by for the Seagulls. Connolly remained on the bench as Brighton lost 2-1 at Selhurst Park, with Graham Potter preferring the strike partnership of Leandro Trossard and Neal Maupay.
Five days later, Connolly was in from the off in a 1-0 loss to relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion. Connolly made way 61 minutes in for Danny Welbeck, a man who made many of the highlights after his penalty miss in a game littered with notable moments.
Brighton and Hove Albion sit sixteenth in the Premier League at the time of writing, three points off the drop zone.