By Ronan Murphy
It has been a chastening summer for Irish football following the disastrous performance of the national team at Euro 2012 but there are grounds for optimism as the new season looms into view.
Up and down the English top division, young Irishmen are champing at the bit to get going and make an impression in the Premier League.
Although Irish stalwarts like Damien Duff, Shay Given and Richard Dunne remain mainstays at their clubs, there is a new generation ready to make an impact.
|ROBBIE BRADY - MANCHESTER UNITED
A free-scoring left winger with Ireland under-21s, Brady has a formidable tally of six goals in 10 internationals for Noel King's side. The 20-year-old has yet to make a senior appearance at Old Trafford, but has so far followed the usual route for Red Devils youngsters by going out on loan to make a name for himself and get first team experience.
A season in the Championship with Hull City did wonders for the Dubliner's reputation, finding the net three times in 39 appearances from out wide. This season could see him go out on loan again, possibly to a Premier League club, but with Alex Ferguson testing him at left back on United's pre-season tour, Brady could be kept at Old Trafford as a backup for Patrice Evra.
|SAMIR CARRUTHERS - ASTON VILLA
Islington-born Carruthers qualifies for Ireland through his grandparents, and has quickly become a key member of Paul Doolin's U19 team. A goal against Bulgaria helped Ireland to the Elite Stage of Euro 2012 qualifying, while at club level, Carruthers made the breakthrough at Villa Park.
Alex McLeish gave him his debut at the end of last season, and the 19-year-old winger went on to play three Premier League games, prompting Villa fans to compare him to Samir Nasri.
New Villa boss Paul Lambert named him as one of five Irishmen in Aston Villa's 25-man squad for their pre-season trip to the US, with former Shamrock Rovers left back Enda Stevens also hoping to impress.
|SHANE DUFFY - EVERTON
Twenty-year-old centre-back Shane Duffy has already been called up by Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni to the senior national team ranks but will need to get more game time with Everton if he is to displace Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger at the heart of the Irish defence.
A loan spell at Scunthorpe United ended prematurely as he was recalled to Goodison Park due to an injury crisis, but the Derry-born centre half held his own in the top tier replacing Phil Jagielka for the Toffees.
A former Northern Ireland youth international, Duffy has pledged allegiance to Trapattoni's squad and could easily make his senior debut in the near future.
|ROB KIERNAN - WIGAN ATHLETIC
While most young Irish players are trying to break through at their clubs, Wigan's Rob Kiernan will be hoping not to break anything else.
So far, his career has been halted by injuries, with a loan at Accrington Stanley being cut short by an ankle injury after just three games last season.
The Ireland U21 captain is a very reliable defender, and has appeared in the FA Cup for Watford and the Scottish Premier League with Kilmarnock, If he can stay fit, may well be in line for his Premier League debut with Wigan.
Our exclusive interview with Rob can be read here.
|KARL SHEPPARD - READING
League of Ireland fans know all about 21-year-old Dubliner Karl Sheppard, who could be the next in a long line of Irishmen to succeed at Reading.
Twenty three goals in 71 appearances with Galway United and Shamrock Rovers attracted the attention of the Royals, who swooped for him in February.
The signing of Russian international Pavel Pogrebnyak may hinder his chances at the Madejski Stadium, but a goal against Didcot Town in a warm-up game should help attract Brian McDermott's attention.
Also at Reading is 17-year-old centre back Pierce Sweeney.