By Ronan Murphy
The return of the Premier League this weekend saw plenty of Irish players return to club action. Fulham sit top of the table after the opening day thanks to a 5-0 win over Norwich City. Damien Duff opened the scoring and became the second Irishman to score in 13 separate Premier League seasons.
West Ham's game with Aston Villa had four Irishmen involved, with Ciaran Clark starting at centre-back for the visitors, while Shay Given and Stephen Ireland also started for Paul Lambert's side. Four days after returning to the Irish international team, Joey O'Brien came off the bench to make his Premier League comeback.
Shane Long won two penalties for West Bromwich Albion against Liverpool and, although the Tipperary man missed from the spot, the Baggies won 3-0 to get their season off to the perfect start.
Crystal Palace were denied an opening day win at home to Watford as Gianfranco Zola's side scored two late goals to snatch the three points. Owen Garvan was on hand to score twice for Palace, while Ireland under-21 international Sean Murray started for the visitors.
Richard Keogh made his Championship debut for Derby County, and captained the Rams to a 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
Owen Coyle saw his Bolton Wanderers side suffer a 2-0 defeat at the hands of former club Burley, who had Chris McCann playing in midfield and going close early on.
Former Ireland international Darren Potter headed in the opening goal as ten-man Milton Keynes Dons defeated Oldham Athletic 2-0, while former Shelbourne and St. Patrick's Athletic midfielder David McAllister scored the only goal as Sheffield United opened their League One campaign with a win against Shrewsbury Town. The Blades have a strong Irish contingent, and had McAllister, Stephen Quinn, and club captain Michael Doyle starting in midfield.
Karl Sheppard got his football league career off to a perfect start with a goal against Southend United as Accrington Stanley won 1-0 away from home. Former Shamrock Rovers striker Sheppard is on a six-month loan deal at the Crown Ground, where manager Paul Cook has two other Irish players on the books - defender Michael Liddle and striker Padraig Amond.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle snatched a late point against Hearts thanks to Conor Pepper's 90th minute goal. The 18-year-old came off the bench to make his SPL debut, and netted from close range to delight manager Terry Butcher. ICT had Richie Foran sent off in the first half for a dangerous tackle on Ryan McGowan.
New Aberdeen signing Jonny Hayes scored his first goal for the club as the Dons recorded their first win of the season. Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn missed out on a place in the Aberdeen lineup through injury with Scottish midfielder Ryan Fraser taking his place as Aberdeen defeated St. Johnstone 2-1.
Robbie Keane took his MLS tally to 11 for the 2012 season on Thursday night as LA Galaxy drew 1-1 with Columbus Crew. Keane scored a simple tap in to tie the game in the 64th minute.
Darren O'Dea started his first game for Toronto FC but could not help the struggling side overcome Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City, going down to an 83rd minute goal.
Former Arsenal striker Rhys Murphy made his second start for Dutch Eerste Divisie side Telstar as they recorded a 2-1 victory AGOVV.
|IRISH XI OF THE WEEKEND
Goalkeeper: Paddy Kenny (Leeds United)
Defenders: Brendan Moloney (Nottingham Forest), Gavin Gunning (Dundee United), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Richard Keogh (Derby County)
Midfielders: Damien Duff (Fulham), Owen Garvan (Crystal Palace), Darren Potter (MK Dons), Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen)
Forwards: Shane Long (West Brom), Karl Sheppard (Accrington Stanley)