As the domestic league continues to grow in stature, we look at five promising League of Ireland players who could yet make an Ireland breakthrough.
In recent years, the League of Ireland has gone from strength to strength with improving standards in games and most of the Irish national team made up of former domestic players.
This season’s league has again shown the capabilities of some of its brightest talent with many ex-Premier League academy players showing they can still make a big breakthrough.
Daryl Horgan and Sean Maguire made their Ireland debuts after form in the league earned them moves to Preston and there could be more players to follow them into the Ireland ranks. We examine five potential future Ireland internationals within the league.
1. Kieran Sadlier – Cork City
The former West Ham United youth has become one of the League of Ireland’s best players and will be hoping to add to underage international honours. The 23-year-old can play on either wing and is blessed with pace and tremendous technical ability.
The English-born attacker had to somewhat fill the limelight vacated by Sean Maguire and may not be far behind him in securing a move back to England and an Irish cap.
2. Graham Burke – Shamrock Rovers
24 year old Graham Burke is another to have been capped at under-21 level. A talented secondary striker, Burke has shown his creative abilities in addition to his natural finishing ability. Was highly regarded at Aston Villa before leaving for first-team football and could offer something a little bit different for Ireland if afforded the chance.
3. Trevor Clarke – Shamrock Rovers
Burke’s teammate Trev0r Clarke is one of the highest rated players in the League of Ireland and was linked with a move to Southampton last season.
Out for a few months after a horrific injury looked to have ended his season but will be looking to pick up where he left off on his return.
Can be described as a left-footed aspiring Seamus Coleman.
4. Rory Hale – Derry City
Thriving alongside brother Ronan for club and country, Ireland under-21 international Ronan Hale is one of the most technically gifted players in the League of Ireland.
Formally on the books at Aston Villa, the Belfast native made the move to the Brandywell via Galway United and represents the new wave of Irish midfielders in the underage set up that are very comfortable in possession.
5. Daniel Cleary – Dundalk
Ex-Liverpool trainee Daniel Cleary was highly rated by Jurgen Klopp but stiff competition saw him depart Anfield. After another tough time at Birmingham, the Dubliner made the wise call to return home and is now rebuilding his career under Stephen Kenny.
An assured and modern-day centre-half, Cleary has shown his undoubted quality for the Lillywhites and could work his way up to an international call-up.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena.