With the SSE Airtricity League all set to kick off once again this Friday, Pundit Arena takes a look at five new additions to the Premier Division worth keeping an eye on in 2017.
The transfer window was slammed violently shut on Wednesday at 11pm and while talent such as Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan has departed Irish shores this winter, there has been an influx of players who are testing League of Ireland waters for the first time in their careers.
Here are just five players who’ll be hoping to hit the ground running come Friday and beyond:
Tomer Chencinski (Shamrock Rovers)
Shamrock Rovers have spent the past two seasons constantly switching between goalkeepers Barry Murphy and Craig Hyland, with neither keeping a firm grip on the number one shirt. Both have departed the club during the close season with new head coach Stephen Bradley replacing them with Kevin Horgan (younger brother of Daryl) and Tomer Chencinski.
The latter has signed from Helsingborgs in Sweden (where he played under Henrik Larsson), though the club was relegated from the Allsvenskan last season prompting Chencinski to seek pastures new. The 32-year-old was born in Israel but has represented Canada at senior international level. Ireland will be the sixth country he’s played in following spells in the United States, Moldova, Finland and Israel.
Alon Netzer (Derry City)
The signing of Israeli centre-back Alon Netzer from Romanian side Tirgu Mures should provide a welcome boost to Derry City, who’ve lost defenders Patrick McClean and Niclas Vemmelund to League of Ireland rivals while Cristian Castells and Max Karner have returned to Spain and Austria respectively. Aaron Barry and Ryan McBride are also unlikely to be fit in time for Friday’s opener at Bohemians.
Netzer, who is eligible to represent both Israel and Romania at international level, began his career in the former with Hapoel Nir Ramat HaSharon, where he made 54 league appearances. The 23-year-old thereafter moved to the Romanian top-flight with Tirgu Mures but found opportunities to be limited before signing for Derry this week. Who knows what his impressions of Maginn Park will be?
Bastien Hery (Limerick)
Could well fill the void left by Axel Bossekota’s departure in 2013 as the worst haircut in Limerick, Bastien Hery is just one of several new arrivals to last season’s First Division winners. The former France U18 international spent the last four years in England, where he is perhaps best remembered for a man of the match display at Anfield as Carlisle United lost on penalties to Liverpool in a League Cup tie in 2015.
He started out with Paris Saint-Germain and featured for their reserve side in the fourth tier of French football, playing alongside current PSG star Adrien Rabiot in midfield. Hery has also played for Sheffield Wednesday, Rochdale, Carlisle United and most recently Accrington Stanley before signing for Limerick in January – his acquisition has potential to be a serious masterstroke.
Conor Clifford (Dundalk)
Once touted as the next Frank Lampard in the not too distant past, you can’t help but sense that Conor Clifford has returned to Ireland with a point to prove following a disillusioning past four years in the lower echelons of English football. He’s signed for champions Dundalk with a view to getting his career back on track much like Richie Towell did at Oriel Park, a player Clifford played alongside at schoolboy level.
Clifford captained Chelsea to FA Youth Cup glory in 2010. He also trained with the first-team but never made an appearance and was loaned out several times before joining Southend United in 2013. He was an unused substitute for two of Republic of Ireland’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers under Giovanni Trapattoni and joins Dundalk from Boreham Wood, who play in the National League.
Rodrigo Tosi (Limerick)
The undisputed winner of Pundit Arena’s unofficial award for best name in the League of Ireland, veteran Brazilian playmaker Rodrigo Tosi has all the ingredients to become a Limerick cult hero – his flair and exuberance should be a sight to behold at Markets Field this season. Something of a journeyman, Ireland will be the eight countries he’s played in following his arrival from Indonesian outfit Persija Jakarta.
Tosi began his career in his native Brazil and brief spells in Malaysian and Greek football followed before moving to Switzerland, where he represented Neuchatel Xamax and Lausanne-Sport, the latter for whom he played in the Europa League group stages in 2010. He also spent time in Iran before signing for DPMM FC and was the top scorer in the Singapore League, scoring 24 goals in 2014.