Sheffield United: Irish eyes won’t be smiling

Combative midfielder: Irishman Stephen Gleeson, right, battles it out with United midfielder Kevin McDonald at stadium:mk

Combative midfielder: Irishman Stephen Gleeson, right, battles it out with United midfielder Kevin McDonald at stadium:mk

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GOOD friends off the pitch but best of enemies on it, MK Dons midfielder Stephen Gleeson is relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against fellow Irishman Michael Doyle, writes James Shield.

Gleeson, who marked his return from injury with a goal during Tuesday’s rout of League One leaders Doncaster Rovers, will come face to face with Sheffield United’s captain when Karl Robinson’s side attempt to gain further ground on the play-off positions at Bramall Lane tomorrow.

“You always know you’ve been in a game when you face Michael,” Gleeson told The Star. “He’s an exceptional performer and whatever you get when you’re competiting with him you earn.

“All of us Irish lads tend too look out for each other over here. We know how hard it can be when you leave home at a young age to try and build a career.

“But, even though we’re a pretty tight knit bunch, that makes us even more competitive when we come up against each other.”

Gleeson, who broke his foot during training in December, added: “I might not face Michael from the start but hopefully I will at some stage. I’ve come back three weeks ahead of schedule and I was pleased the physios let me come on in midweek.”

Gleeson, aged 24, learned his trade with Cherry Orchard who boast an enviable reputation for producing footballing talent. Former United favourites Stephen Quinn, elder brother Alan and Andy Reid are also alumni of the Dublin club.

“I know Stephen well and he’s been one of the best players in the Championship for Hull this season,” Gleeson said. “He was a few years ahead of me but Keith, his younger brother who was also with Sheffield United for a while, was in my age group.

“Cherry Orchard is a magnet for youngsters because so English clubs have scouts watching every game. When you join the chairman tells you about those who have come through the ranks so you’re even more determined.”

*Twitter: JamesShield1