WITH virtually no young players of note breaking through and the FAI in crisis, it wasn’t so long ago that Irish football’s future seemed in deep, deep trouble.
However, the emergence of forwards Aaron Connolly, Michael Obafemi and Troy Parrott and the success of the under-21 side under Stephen Kenny has suddenly raised optimism around the Irish game in recent months.
Lately, the third round of the FA Cup brought about more positive signs with the emergence of another striker in the form of Adam Idah - the Norwich City man, who scored a hat-trick for the Canaries against Preston at Deepdale.
Encouragingly, Idah looks to have everything you would want from a striker.
Standing at six foot three inches tall, the 18-year-old Cork native has the power and height to be a focal point for a team, while also possessing the pace and movement to match - characteristics which rarely come together.
As he broke away from the Preston defence and turned the goalkeeper to win a penalty for his third goal, you could certainly make a comparison with Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
Though, whether he turns out as good as Aubameyang is another story, but at least this time he’s not the only prospect Irish football is resting its hopes on.
Brighton’s Connolly, who has made it through to the first team this season, has been a revelation, performing at the kind of level which makes you think a lengthy Premier League career is the least on his horizon.
Again, like Idah, Connolly is still a teenager and, although is smaller, is built powerfully and has the low centre of gravity and acceleration to excel in the modern game’s quick transitions from defence to attack.
Elsewhere, Obafemi at Southampton is developing well and continues to make the odd start and regularly contributes from the bench, despite struggling to knock fellow Saints striker, Danny Ings, off his perch.
Parrott’s progression to the first team at Tottenham, meanwhile, has been on hold somewhat since the arrival of manager Jose Mourinho, who insists the Dubliner commits to a new contract at the club.
But, once he does so, as is expected, many believe the 17-year-old also has all it takes to be a brilliant player at Spurs. After all, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich were said to be interested in his signature. We shouldn’t forget Aston Villa's recent signing from Barcelona - 16-year-old, Louie Barry.
He represents England’s under-17s right now but is qualified for Ireland and has played for the country’s youth sides.
For the FAI, the rise of this number of Irish forwards has been a small shining light in what has been a tumultuous year for the organisation as it continues to grapple with public inquiries, financial ruination and reformation.
Their decision to put an emphasis on youth and install Kenny as impending senior manager is good news for the likes of Idah and Parrott, with Kenny renowned for improving and trusting in young players.
The next few years will prove pivotal as to whether all of the players mentioned can make it at the top-level. In reality, if the senior team could gain two solid internationals from this current batch, it would serve as a great foundation for the next decade.