Cork soccer players made their mark in England, from the top tier to League Two

Dylan O'Connell looks at how Leesiders fared across the various levels of English soccer
Cork soccer players made their mark in England, from the top tier to League Two

Alan Browne in action against Egidijus Vaitkünas of Lithuania. Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

AFTER a long 10 months; the football season has come to an end in England and across the various levels of the pyramid, Cork players performed excellently.

While some fought for promotion, others stood in front of the world and delivered in crucial moments.

Caoimhín Kelleher had the best season of his career with Liverpool as he challenged for four trophies with Jürgen Klopp’s side.

His year began with a meeting with Norwich City in the Carabao Cup and the goalkeeper stopped a penalty during a 3-0 win for the Reds.

The goalkeeper later saved two penalties during a shoot-out victory over Leicester City in the quarter-final and he kept a clean sheet at the Emirates in the semi-finals.

In the final, he scored the winning penalty as Liverpool beat Chelsea to end a 10-year domestic cup drought.

Liverpool's Carabao Cup final hero Caoimhín Kelleher
Liverpool's Carabao Cup final hero Caoimhín Kelleher

Kelleher also made two appearances for Liverpool during their run to the FA Cup final.

In the decider at Wembley, he picked up a winners medal after his side defeated Chelsea on penalties. The goalkeeper also played against Chelsea and Watford in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace’s Jake O’Brien was sent on loan to Swindon Town in January 2022.

He made 19 appearances for the club and they finished the season in sixth place. This was enough to qualify the side for the play-offs and there, Port Vale beat them on penalties.

Tyreik Wright started out the season on loan at Salford City and in January he was loaned out to Colchester United. At the League Two club, Wright played nine times and scored one goal.

At the other end of the Premier League table, Adam Idah had a good start to the season with Norwich City. In January, he scored his first Premier League goal during a 2-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. His good run came to an end in February when an injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Burnley’s Kevin Long returned from injury this year and he made five appearances for the Clarets.

In the Championship, John Egan and Conor Hourihane went agonisingly close to reaching the play-off final. In the semi-finals, they drew 3-3 on aggregate with Nottingham Forest and in the deciding penalty shoot-out, Hourihane was one of two players to miss for Sheffield.

Coventry City had Ricardo Dinanga on their bench for games against Sheffield Wednesday, Peterborough United, and Hull City. The winger also won the Professional Development League title with the club’s U23s.

Preston North End had a very mixed season which ended with the Lancashire-based club finishing in 13th place.

Alan Browne made 38 appearances for the Lilywhites and he scored three goals. 21-year-old Adam O’Reilly, who has been at Deepdale since 2018, spent the majority of the last ten months on loan at Stalybridge Celtic and St Patrick’s Athletic.

After fearing relegation for much of the season, Hull City finished in 19th position. Sean McLoughlin was central to his side’s survival campaign as he made 32 appearances in the Championship this year.

McLoughlin’s contributions were personally recognised when he was voted Hull City’s Player of the Month for December 2021.

Stoke City sent Ethon Varian on loan to Raith Rovers in the Scottish Championship. The winger and his squad missed out on the Premiership play-offs by two points.

This year also saw Chiedozie Ogbene fully asserted himself for his club and country. The former Cork City FC forward scored against Azerbaijan on his competitive debut with Ireland and he featured in a memorable 0-0 draw with Portugal at the Aviva Stadium.

Last March, Ogbene got a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw with Belgium, who were the number one ranked international team at the time of the game.

His international form was boosted by an excellent run at club level, which ended with Rotherham United winning the EFL Trophy and promotion to the Championship.

The winger was instrumental during the business end of the season, as he scored and got an assist in the Millers’ day out at Wembley.


Anthony O’Connor led Morecambe to a 19th place in League One, a modest finish for a newly-promoted side. The defender went agonisingly close to scoring a famous goal for Morecambe in the FA Cup against Tottenham Hotspur.

O’Connor was in the right place to knock in a corner which gave his side the lead at half-time in White Hart Lane. Then Harry Winks, Lucas, and Harry Kane scored to give Spurs a 3-1 win.

Morcambe's Anthony O'Connor pulls back Harry Kane.
Morcambe's Anthony O'Connor pulls back Harry Kane.

Leighton Orient signed Aaron Drinan last summer and his 13 goals played a big part in the club ending the season in 13th place in League Two.

Fiacre Kelleher and Bradford City finished the League Two season in 14th position. 

Four places below them was Rochdale, who are captained by Eoghan O’Connell.

In the FA Women’s Super League, Brighton and Hove Albion ended the season in seventh place.

Megan Connolly made 20 appearances for the Seagulls and she got two assists.

The forward stole international headlines last October when she scored the opening goal for Ireland in a 2-1 victory over Finland in Helsinki.

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