With all the talk of Irish internationals returning to grace the League of Ireland and the departure of exciting players such as Ryan Manning, Brian Lenihan, Patrick Hoban, Michael Duffy and Rory Gaffney amongst others, Tom O’Connor discusses the future prospects of some of the next crop of young LOI superstars.
In goal, Bray’s Stephen Mc Guinness (20) has been a solid performer between the sticks for the past few seasons displaying the kind of bravery and agility that Seagulls fans have been used to watching from net minders such as Alan O’Neill and Darren Quigley in the past. Similarly, in Inchicore, Conor O’Malley (20) has filled the gloves of the injured Brendan Clarke this season and has left the experienced custodian with a fight on his hands to regain the no. 1 jersey.
St Pat’s have a tradition of having a solid defence and the past few seasons have been no exception with the addition of Sean Hoare (22). The footballing centre-half was reportedly courted by several English clubs over the winter break but opted to remain with the Inchicore side. Another season or two learning from the experienced Kenny Browne could leave him primed for a new challenge.
John Kavanagh (21) of Cork City has been having a stormer of a season so far, regularly featuring Teams of the Week. The young defender had ensured that the loss of Brian Lenihan to Hull City won’t be as drastic as some had predicted. Even in defeat against Dundalk, Kavanagh never looked out of his depth against one of the best wingers in the league – Daryl Horgan.
In midfield there’s Kealan Dillon (21). Wonder goals aside, Dillon is performing well in the Bohs’ midfield. Operating alongside 22-year-old Keith Buckley, the ex-Athlone Town midfielder is repaying the faith shown by Keith Long in bringing him from the manager’s former club to Dalymount Park with a series of strong displays in the middle of the park.
Also in midfield is Richie Towell (23). The hottest property in the league right now is the driving force behind the champion’s campaign to secure the title once more this season. Ex-Hibs and Celtic midfielder Towell has exhibited both excellent attacking and defensive skills in the games he has played in so far and has a knack of being in the right place, scoring crucial goals as well as the skill to fire home some stunning strikes such as his hat-trick goal versus Galway United a few weeks ago.
Up front there’s Mikey Drennan (21). The ex-Aston Villa man has been banging in the goals for Shamrock Rovers since the start of the season, begging the question – have they found a replacement for Gary Twigg?
Will Drennan stay in the league long enough to prove himself as a LOI goalscoring legend such as Jason Byrne or Glen Crowe? Time will tell, but it’s still early in the striker’s first team career, despite having an excellent scoring record for Aston Villa’s youth and reserve teams.
Also up top there’s Enda Curran (22). Joining the likes of Drennan and Towell at the top of the goalscoring charts is ex-Mervue United and Derry City striker Enda Curran.
Fresh from a hat-trick against Bray, the young forward is full of confidence and ready to plunder more goals in the weeks to come. If any scouts were watching Curran against Limerick, where he scored twice and was a constant menace to the Shannonsiders’ defence, they had to have been mightily impressed.
So could Bray be seeing another goalkeeping legend at the Carlisle Grounds, are we set to see another Dillon midfielder excel in the league – following Dundee United and ex-Longford Town man Sean Dillon’s progression – will Towell’s goals fire Dundalk back to title success or will Mikey Drennan’s firepower be enough to reclaim Rovers’ first title since the heady days of Michael O’Neill?
Whatever happens, the future is bright for the league’s young players. Those mentioned above are just a snapshot of the potential that’s currently there.
Tom O’Connor, Pundit Arena
Read More About: brian lenihan, cork city, Dundalk, irish football, john kavanagh, Kealan Dillion, loi first division, LOI Premier Division, Mikey Drennan, patrick hoban, richie towell, Shamrock Rovers, st patricks athletic