With the League of Ireland in hibernation for the winter, the transfer season will soon be beginning in earnest.
With a number of players’ contracts drawing to a close, the annual scramble to renegotiate either with their current clubs or somewhere different is already underway. The structure of these contracts is such that clubs in England will often come sniffing around the league this time looking for bargains.
Cork City, Sligo Rovers and Bohemians have already taken steps to tie down some of their big names for next year, players such as Conor McCormack, Rhys McCabe and Shane Supple who would all almost certainly have had interest from teams across the water after very impressive seasons.
For others, clubs face an anxious wait between now and the beginning of next season to see if some of their big names can be convinced to stay on this shores. Here are five such players:
Fuad Sule (Bohemians). Bohs have been a success story on their own this season, as Keith Long took a squad tipped by some for relegation and led them to fifth place in the table. In the centre of midfield, the tenacious Sule was a breakout star. Having arrived from St. Pat’s last year, the 20-year-old was a revelation throughout the campaign, leading to interest from League Two side Barnet in the summer.
A move didn’t materalise at that time, but it would be a big surprise if
Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers). Another young talent that stepped up massively in 2017, Clarke excelled for Shamrock Rovers in a number of positions this season. The 19-year-old was crowned Young Player of the Year by the Hoops and it’s an award that was richly deserved.
Clarke was linked with a move to Southampton this summer, and while it remains to be seen if the Saints would enter the race to sign him in January, he could well have a number of suitors looking to pick up a young versatile bargain.
Patrick McEleney (Dundalk). On his day, McEleney is arguably the best talent in the Premier Divison. The Dundalk playmaker’s technical ability is second to none, and some of the goals that he scores would be enough to make up a highlight reel that could be a goal of the season competition all on their own.
The league’s most high-profile players don’t tend to stay around for too long, and it would be no surprise at all to see the 25-year-old follow Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle to England if a suitable offer comes in.
Rory Hale (Galway United). The 20-year-old joined the Tribesmen from Aston Villa in the summer, and made an instant impact in Galway United’s midfield with a number of fine performances.
Hale, and Irish under-21 international, is one of a number of players in the recently-relegated side that could feasibly remain at the higher level, and could even be set for swift return to England if the right offer comes along.
Robbie Benson (Dundalk). Benson will probably be best-known to British audiences for scoring that thunderbolt in a Champions League qualifier against Legia Warsaw The 25-year-old has already admitted that he would consider a move abroad to further his career.
Scottish side St. Johnstone have been linked with a move for Benson (along with teammate David McMillan) and a big performance on live television in the FAI Cup final this weekend could see a few more clubs enter the mix.