Let's shine some light on West Ham's sadly forgotten Irishman

Sadly injuries have blighted the career of five-time Ireland cap Joey O'Brien

BY Raf Diallo 16:49 Tuesday 9 February 2016, 16:49 9 Feb 2016

Joey O'Brien ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Ten years ago next month, Joey O'Brien was making his Ireland debut in Steve Staunton's first match as manager.

It was 2006, Ireland won 3-0 against Sweden and for the then-Bolton defender, many more international caps were expected.

But a decade on and he has only managed five appearances for the Boys in Green overall and increasingly cuts a peripheral figure at West Ham, who face Liverpool in an FA Cup fourth round replay tonight.

Last season, the Dubliner who came through the Bolton academy at the start of the 2000s, only made 11 appearances in all competitions for West Ham.

This season, the 29-year-old has not made a single appearance in the Premier League, with his only audition during the 2015-16 season being 55 minutes in West Ham's 0-0 FA Cup draw at Anfield 10 days ago and a five games in the Hammer's Europa League qualifier run at the start of the summer.

Calf problems kept him out of the picture at the start of this season and he has rarely had a look-in since under Slaven Bilic, having been a favourite of Sam Allardyce's first at Bolton and then when he was signed by West Ham in 2011.

West Ham United's James Tomkins (left) celebrates scoring his sides third goal with teammates Joey O'Brien during the UEFA Europa League first round qualifying match at Upton Park in July (Picture by: Steven Paston / PA Wire/Press Association Images)

While the versatile player who can play at full-back and in midfield has managed to make just over 100 appearances for the London club since joining, that has decreased year-on-year and injuries have been at the heart of it.

Last season, West Ham were still under Allardyce's management and O'Brien was often left languishing on the bench but also missed four Premier League match-days as a result of knee injuries.

A dislocation of his knee was responsible for side-lining him for pretty much the entirety of the second half of 2013-14, bar a 90-minute return in the final game against Manchester City.

Injuries had already impacted him in the years prior to that and for a player with the talent to hold his own at Premier League level, that has had an unfortunate knock-on effect at international grades.

Despite occasional call ups since 2006, more often than not he has been absent from squads - a four year absence occurred until a recall in 2012 - and consequently rarely taken to the field.

And given that he turns 30 in a week's time with Euro 2016 on the horizon, the player of 10 years ago may well have expected to go such a tournament in the event we qualified.

Unfortunately, that is highly unlikely to be the case for a player who did tell The Irish Times' Emmet Malone upon his most recent international call-up in 2013 that: "I missed four years through knee injuries. But it’s always something that motivated me: to come back and play for Ireland."

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