With another passing year of Ireland internationals retiring, most will wonder where the next emerging talents will come from. Most recent of these has been David McGoldrick arguably Ireland’s best in form striker.
Perhaps the answer to this question has been at home in Ireland. The League of Ireland is a league that tends to be constantly overlooked but hosts some great talent. Many of Ireland’s players have all been involved in the country’s own home league over the years.
The standout names being, Long, Coleman, Maguire, McClean, Stevens, and Wes Hoolahan. These players used the league to grow and develop before making their move to the Championship or Premier League.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 players in Ireland that could potentially make that same move.
1. Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)
Taking top spot on the list is Jack Byrne. Byrne is an attacking midfielder for current champions Shamrock Rovers.
The former Man City academy player was in great form this season scoring 8 goals in 14 games. Playing for Shamrock Rovers for the last two years has made the Dubliner grow into a far more mature player.
Byrne had been in England previously as a teen with Man City, Oldham Athletic, Blackburn and Wigan. However, a combination of off the field incidents and lack of game time singled a return home for Byrne.
The 24 year old is frequently compared to the likes of Wes Hoolahan. He has a wide range of passing, dribbling ability and can make things happen.
Byrne possesses a low centre of gravity as a small player giving him a Messi like stature. However, because of his League of Ireland status he appears to be frequently overlooked.
He is a player that Ireland desperately need, that isn’t afraid to get on the ball and drive player’s forward. During his spell at Rover’s he has caught the attention of many on the international stage.
In 2019 Mick McCarthy called him into the Ireland squad where he got his first international cap against Bulgaria. Current Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has called him into his squads but has yet to make an appearance.
At the age of 24 it may be time for the Dubliner to move onto the next chapter in his career. He finds himself out of contract at the end of this season and some teams are interested.
These clubs include Bournemouth, Stoke City and Colorado Rapids. Byrne is definitely a Ireland regular if he can get a move away next window.
The midfielder is defiantly capable of cutting it in the Premier League.
2 Neil Farrugia (Shamrock Rovers)
Second on our list is Shamrock Rovers player Neil Farrugia.
Farrugia a talented winger that has been on many clubs’ radars over the last year or two. Originally born in France he moved to Ireland with his father at seven years old. The winger is eligible to play for Spain, France, Malta and Ireland.
The 20 year old first shone as a youngster at Malahide fc where he caught the attention of UCD. He joined UCD who played in the second tier of Irish football, scoring 3 goals in 35 appearances.
Stephen Kenny was impressed by Farrugia and was called into his talented u21 squad. The winger made two appearances under Kenny scoring on his debut.
His great performances led to many English Clubs looking to get the youngsters’ signature. Farrugia went on trial with Manchester City and caught the eye of Leeds and Middlesbrough.
However, he has constantly rejected offers to go abroad to the UK and instead wishes to remain at home. He has stated that he doesn’t think he’s ready mentally or psychically to go abroad to play football just yet.
The winger scored a magnificent 600 points in his leaving cert and wished to pursue studies at home whilst playing football. Farrugia is clearly academically gifted and is studying Biomedical Science in UCD.
To accommodate his studies and love for football he penned a deal with current team Shamrock Rovers. Whilst studying the 20 year old has made 35 appearances this season scoring 3 goals with 5 assists.
Being such an impressive talent at such a young age there’s no doubt he can play abroad.
With so many clubs after him I feel its only a matter of time before Farrugia leaves to pursue football.
3 Liam Scales (Shamrock Rovers)
Ranking at number three on the list is Shamrock Rovers youngster Liam Scales.
Scales is a versatile centre back that is strong on the ball can play anywhere in defence. He is mostly used in a back three for Rovers but can play anywhere across a two or three.
Scale’s solid on the ball skills and big physic makes him ideal to slot in at defensive midfielder also. Similarly, to Farrugia, the 22 year old started this footballing career at UCD.
Scales worked his way through the u19’s before breaking into the UCD senior side at 21. The defender made one appearance for the side in the first division scoring on his debut.
His big stature and great ball control for a defender made him an interesting prospect to clubs abroad. In the summer of 2019, he was linked with a move away to Bristol City, but this fell through.
Scales was also an interest of Manchester City, joining Neil Farrugia on a week trail. His impressive performances earned him an international call up from Stephen Kenny’s u21 side.
The centre back has made 7 appearances for Irelands u21 team, impressing when called upon. Despite the failed moves to Man City and Bristol, Scales was offered a contract at Shamrock Rovers.
His time at Rovers has given the young centre back time to develop his skills and knowledge of the game. So far this season, Scales has made 14 appearances for the Hoops senior team with one assist.
At the age of 22 the defender is still developing. Given his previous interest from other clubs it won’t be long before other clubs come knocking.
With how adaptable Scales is I’m sure he’ll feature as one of Irelands Premier League players in the future.
4 Daniel Mandroiu (Bohemians)
Fourth in our list is Daniel Mandroiu of Bohemians.
Mandroiu is an attacking midfielder with great technique and class, capable of match winning moments. The 22 year old began his footballing career at St Kevin’s in Dublin.
This club has developed some top talent over years boasting some of Ireland’s top players. These include players such as Robbie Brady, Liam Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Damien Duff.
At the age of 15 Mandroiu was whisked off to Premier League side Brighton. In the 2018/19 season the midfielder came to life scoring 3 goals in 11 matches.
He became a key player for the u23 side helping them earn promotion to the u23 top division. Unfortunately, in 2018 the midfielder was released by Brighton and signed for Irish side Bohemians.
Since arriving at Dalymount he has been a revelation. Mandroiu has scored 14 goals in 33 matches and is one of the best players in the league. The back end of the 2019 season saw him win young player of the year.
Beating the likes of Jack Byrne and many other top prospects. With the midfielder eligible to play for Romania he has chosen to represent Ireland at international level.
From 2019 onwards Mandroiu has been capped 5 times under then manager Stephen Kenny. His accolades from the 2019 season and his great start to the 2020 season gained him some transfer attention.
Dutch side Fc Twente from the Eredivisie were keen to sign the attacking midfielder but nothing materialised. For the time being Mandroui remains at Dalymount but given his current form he could easily earn a move elsewhere.
The Irishman boasts enough talent to cut it in any league, especially in England.
5 Darragh Leahy (Dundalk)
Last on this list is Dundalk defender Darragh Leahy.
Leahy is one of the league’s brightest defensive talents at the moment. He is extremely comfortable in defence with centre, left or right back a playable position.
The young defender started his footballing career at Malahide Fc before transitioning to St. Kevin’s.
As a youngster the left back was signed for Coventry City in the Championship back in 2015. However, this didn’t work out and Leahy was put out on loan spells, the most notable of which was to Nuneaton Town.
After a year as a loanee, Leahy returned home back to the League of Ireland. He signed on a one year deal with Bohemians. This is the move the young defender needed to develop further into a top player.
The left back made a total 51 appearances at Dalymount. His excellent performances in the 2018/19 season earned him a spot in the PFAI team of the year.
His form in that year was rewarded with a call up into Kenny’s Ireland u21 squad making 8 total appearances. This excellent season saw Leahy rise up and up as he transferred to top Irish side Dundalk fc.
The left back was able to play with some of the league’s best and play European football. This season he has played 14 games in the league and is absolutely thriving in the defence for Dundalk.
With exposure he will get from playing in the Europa League, clubs will soon be knocking at his door.
The 22 year old has all the potential to advance onto a bigger club perhaps even the Premier League.
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