Galway is one of Ireland’s sporting hotbeds but, believe it or not, there are two sons of this famous city playing professional football for both of Wales’s top clubs in the same position right now.
Greg Cunningham of Cardiff City and Ryan Manning, a summer signing for Swansea City, both hail from Galway and hope to reach the Premier League. If last season is anything to go by, then the left-backs each have a chance of achieving that aim.
Both the Bluebirds and Swans made it into the Championship play-offs after finishing in the top six but then fell at the penultimate hurdle after losing two-legged semi-finals. Fast forward to this term and, as current English Championship odds tell you, that disappointment has galvanised one club, while the other has struggled to match their fine previous campaign so far.
Cunningham, who turns 30 this year, has not had the best luck with injuries. Fitness issues have reared their ugly head with him at Cardiff again this season with hamstring problems forcing him to miss 11 of the first 14 Championship matches.
Bluebirds boss Neil Harris has had to manage without Cunningham for a significant part of the campaign, and this followed a serious knee injury picked up on loan at Blackburn Rovers last term. He will be hoping for much better fortune moving forward as he has plenty of Championship experience from spells with Leicester City, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and Preston North End earlier in his career.
Like Cunningham, Manning’s youth football career included a stint with Mervue United. He stayed in Ireland, playing for the club’s senior team before switching to Galway United and helping them into the country’s top-flight via the promotion/relegation play-offs.
Whereas Cunningham came over to England very young and progressed through the Manchester City academy that also produced famous footballers such as Micah Richards and Phil Foden, Manning was scouted by QPR. Harry Redknapp was the boss at Lotus Road when the West London outfit took him over from Galway.
It would be almost two years after signing for the Hoops in the January transfer window of 2015 that he made his debut in a Championship game against Wolves. Manning needed a loan spell at the wrong end of the division with Rotherham United in 2018-19 before he really established himself at QPR.
After playing almost every league game at Loftus Road last term, Swansea came calling for his services. Steve Cooper bought Manning to the Liberty Stadium for a reported bargain fee of £250,000 to provide competition.
This wasn’t the first time that the Swans had gone to QPR in search of a left-back either. Manning followed former Hoops teammate Jake Bidwell in leaving West London for South Wales.
He is now part of a Swan’s setup mounting a serious challenge for promotion where this is an emphasis on youth. Neither Manning nor Cunningham has been regulars for different reasons at their respective Welsh clubs, but they could well have a big part to play at the business end of the season.