Darragh Lenihan.

Jimmy Geoghegan: Is Darragh Lenihan the forgotten man of Irish football?

One of the great sports stories from 2021 was the way Athboy footballer Jamie McGrath emerged to become a full-fledged international footballer who now has six senior caps to his name. McGrath made the step up and didn't look out of place and still only in his mid twenties hopefully there will be many more games for him in the green jersey.

Yet while McGrath has flourished on the international front, another Meath player - Darragh Lenihan - has been left out in the cold. Forgotten. I was in attendance at the Aviva Stadium back in 2018 when the Dunboyne man made history when, on the 33rd minute, he was sent on by the then Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill to replace John O'Shea who was drawing the curtain down on his own international career.

When he trotted onto the pitch, Lenihan stepped into history becoming the first Meathman to win a senior international cap. Lenihan had a great game that evening; he looked like he was to the manor born and he was very unlucky not to mark such a momentous occasion by scoring a goal. He got a touch to the ball and it looked like it was going to end up in the net but Graham Burke got a touch to it and so he had a right to claim it. Lenihan later went on to earn a second cap when he was selected to play against Northern Ireland. This time he didn't have such a good game and almost gave a goal away. Speaking to him afterwards he was crestfallen. He felt he didn't do himself justice.

As reported recently by my colleague Fergal Lynch, Lenihan, now 27, has been named captain of a high-flying Blackburn Rovers. He is in the team week-in, week-out and earned high praise indeed from Rovers' manager Tony Mowbray.

When the FAI's Festival of Football was held in Meath in 2019 I attended the official launch at Trim Castle and while there I got a chance to briefly speak to Mick McCarthy who was opening the event. I mentioned Lenihan to McCarthy who noted the players' ability to score goals from headers - but he stayed out of the loop.

Under Stephen Kenny, Lenihan has continued to be left out of things. He has managed to get into one or two squads but he's very much a fringe player - yet his club form suggests he is right on his game.

The forgotten man of Irish football surely deserves another chance.