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A number of Irish players played in their first friendly fixtures of pre-season as clubs across Britain set their match preparation into motion ahead of the new campaign

ANALYSIS
By Ryan Bailey

Saturday marked the beginning of a busy pre-season schedule for many clubs and there was plenty of Irish involvement as sides across Britain got their preparations into full swing.

Former League of Ireland players are making their presence felt, while youthful Irish international pretenders will be keen to capitalise on the absence of senior players.

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
 
Shane Duffy and Seamus Coleman were part of Everton’s comfortable 4-1 victory over Morecombe at the Globe Arena as the Toffees got their pre-season underway.

Twenty-year-old Duffy partnered the experienced Sylvain Distin in the heart of the Toffees defence while Coleman played at right back.

Former Shamrock Rovers full back Enda Stevens, as well as Ciaran Clark and Samir Carruthers, played the first half of Aston Villa’s 2-1 victory over Burton Albion in Paul Lambert’s first game in charge of the Villains.
 
Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland have yet to return to pre-season training

Meanwhile, Karl Sheppard made a brief cameo for Premier League new boys Reading in their defeat of AFC Wimbeldon. The former Shamrock Rovers striker didn’t manage to get on the score sheet despite the 7-0 score line but will be pleased with his afternoon’s work.

Ian Harte and Noel Hunt also featured for the Royals as they began preparations for their return to the top flight.

Earlier in the week, new signing Pierce Sweeney, who recently made the move from Bray Wanderers, made his first Reading appearance in a friendly victory over Didcot. Sheppard also played and got on the score sheet.

LEAGUE ONE

Republic of Ireland under-21 international Mark Connolly made his Crawley Town debut on Saturday after completing his move to the League One side during the week. 

Cork City’s Shane O’Connor also featured for the Red Devils in their 3-2 win at Bromley as he continues his trial with Sean O’Driscoll’s side.

Connolly was released by Bolton at the end of last season and his move to Broadfield Stadium could be the spark to re-ignite his promising career.

SCOTLAND

Niall McGinn made a truncated appearance for Aberdeen in their 5-1 win over Abroath.

The former Derry winger came on early in the second half but lasted just 20 minutes before hobbling off after picking up a minor knock.

Goalkeeper Darron Randolph was also in action as he played the full game in Motherwell's unflattering 3-0 defeat to Ayr United.

Former Sligo skipper Richie Ryan played the majority of Dundee United’s derby victory over Dundee on Saturday. But it was striker Ian Daly who grabbed the headlines with a hat trick in front of over 10,000 fans.

The Dublin-born forward scored twice in the second period to add to his first-half strike at Dens Park as United prepare for their upcoming Europa League qualifiers.

Former Republic of Ireland U21 international Willo Flood also took part in the comfortable victory, playing 75 minutes in the heart of the United midfield.

IRISH XI OF THE WEEKEND

Goalkeeper: Darron Randolph (Motherwell)

Defenders:
Mark Connolly (Crawley Town), Shane Duffy (Everton), Ian Harte (Reading), Enda Stevens (Aston Villa)

Midfielders:
Seamus Coleman (Everton), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Richie Ryan (Dundee United), Samir Carruthers (Aston Villa)

Forwards:
Ian Daly (Dundee United), Noel Hunt (Reading)

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