By Oisín Bradley
The Football League season cross-channel is nearly over, and with only a handful of games left to play, there is still plenty of teams with their futures on the line for next season.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how the men from Galway in the upper echelons of the English football pyramid have fared so far this season, as well as what the future may hold for the Tribesmen and their current clubs.
Greg Cunningham – Preston North End
It is looking nailed on that Preston North End will be settling for another season of mid-table mediocrity in the second tier of English football, however since Cunningham has signed on loan, and later on as a permanent transfer, from Cardiff City he has settled in with little-to-no fuss and proven his worth providing he can keep himself free from the shackles of injury.
Based on his performances so far, it is clear that he has become a key player in the squad at Deepdale during his second stint, with interim manager Frankie McEvoy favouring him in the on the left of a back five when fit. The former Manchester City youth player was out of the squad for six consecutive games, but made a return and played the full 90 minutes of a goalless draw against Stoke City on the road. In the following game, Cunningham also played the full game as Preston swept Derby County aside in a 3-0 win at Deepdale.
Aaron Connolly – Brighton and Hove Albion
It’s been a tough season for both player and club in this instance, as Aaron Connolly and Brighton and Hove Albion have struggled to make their mark on the 2020/21 Premier League season. Whilst it seems that in the end that Albion will have enough to just evade the watermark for this campaign, it is a stark indication that there must be significant improvement from both parties if they are to have a future in the top–flight.
Connolly has really struggled to break into Graham Potter’s side all through the season, with the likes of Danny Welbeck and Neal Maupay preferred over the young Irishman to lead the line for Albion. This season, Connolly has only contributed two goals and one assist in his lowly 16 league appearances. If Connolly truly wishes to play regular first-team football, perhaps a stint outside of the top–flight may be necessary to boost his minutes.
In the last ten games for the Seagulls, Connolly has made two appearances, with his most recent coming in a 1-0 defeat to bottom side Sheffield United. Connolly came onto the pitch in the 67th minute for Jakub Moder. Unfortunately, the youngster couldn’t have the desired impact on the scoreboard.
Daryl Horgan – Wycombe Wanderers
This historic season was always going to prove to be a difficult one for the side from Adams Park, and ultimately that was how it proved as they look set to finish the season rooted to the bottom of the Championship. Horgan has showed glimpses of his ability in a struggling side, and once Wanderers return to the third tier of English football following their brief cameo in the second division, it is expected that the likes of Horgan and co. will find their groove at what is, in truth, their level.
Former Salthill Devon man Horgan has seen his minutes slashed in recent weeks by Gareth Ainsworth and his management team, however he will be hoping that his game-time will be less sparing in League One next season.
Ryan Manning – Swansea City
The Swans have been one of the sides who have taken the Championship by storm this season, and will be well in the mix when the regular season winds up and the Premier League promotion play-offs kick-start in a few weeks’ time.
Manning has shown glimpses of his ability when game-time has been afforded him by Steve Cooper, with three assists in as many FA Cup games, as well as two assists in his 16 league appearances. However, should the men from South Wales reach the holy grail of Premier League football, then the 24-year-old might be forced to consider a move, potentially a loan one, back to the Championship to give himself a chance of regular first-team football.
Swansea did fall to a 1-0 loss at home to Preston North End at the Liberty Stadium, with Manning in at left back for the full 90 minutes, however bounced back to winning ways with a 3-0 win over Millwall on the road at The Den, where the Galway man played the full match.
Manning was in from the off in a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, but was taken off in the 75th minute for Jake Bidwell.
Conor Shaughnessy – Rochdale
Rochdale are in a very precarious position at the moment, and are five points adrift of the relegation zone in League One. That said, their form in the last while has been extremely encouraging, with three wins in their last four games.
Shaughnessy has been given limited game-time by Brian Barry-Murphy in recent weeks, with a sizeable decrease in playing time from his first few months at the club following the Leeds United transfer. However, if anything the introduction of a fresh Conor Shaughnessy at the end of games seems to be working even better for The Dale.
Shaughnessy was on hand to capitalize on a goalkeeping howler and fire the ball into the empty net in the 89th minute, having only been on the pitch for a minute of the 3-1 victory over Accrington Stanley. He also got an assist with a fine through ball to square the game in a draw on the road against Crewe Alexandra after coming on in the 85th minute.