McMillan departs Dundalk while Dunleavy extends Cork stay

Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS In news that will see defenders across the League of Ireland draw a sigh of relief, Dundalk's lethal front-man David McMillan has said his goodbyes to County Louth and indeed Ireland by signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with Scottish Premiership side St.Johnstone.

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With speculation of a cross-channel move for McMillan mounting even long before the end of the 2017 season, today's news will come as little surprise to Dundalk supporters or manager Stephen Kenny, who McMillan is believed to have informed last Friday that he would not be re-signing with the "Lilywhites"for 2018, despite desperate attempts from Kenny to keep a hold of his top-scorer for the past two seasons.

Reaching double-digit tallies in each of his four campaigns with the club, McMillan picked up an incredible three league titles, two league cups and an FAI cup in his time with Dundalk, not to mention the unprecedented European run of 2016. Striker, McMillan played a major role in the famous European efforts from Dundalk as the now twenty-eight-year-old grabbed five-goals to finish as joint top-scorer  in the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League qualifying phase and play-off round before going on to star in the clubs Europa League group stages campaign.

Finishing last season with sixteen top-flight goals, 2017 was a difficult year for the Town as the Oriel Park based club finally relinquished their crown as League Champions to Cork City, who also defeated McMillan's side on penalties in the FAI Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium in November. While Dundalk also failed to match the highs of the previous campaign in European, McMillan's impressive hold-up play over the narrow two legged defeat to Norwegian giants Rosenborg alerted many a club to the services of the Dublin man.

Brought to Dundalk in December of 2013, many critics questioned whether or not the former UCD striker had the abilities to step up to the challenge of replacing Patrick Hoban when the then top-scorer left at the end of the following season. McMillan seemed to thrive under such scrutiny and hit the ground running in 2015, scoring fourteen goals as the "Lilywhites" claimed back to back LOI titles. Ironically, it is Hoban who will now replace McMillan in the Oriel Park dressing room with the former Mervue United striker returning from the English game where he featured for Mansfield Town. Galway United hot-property Ronan Murray has also been brought into the fold by Stephen Kenny in preparation for McMillan's long known departure and with reports today suggesting an American based take-over could be completed by next week at Dundalk, Kenny may still look to bring in more fire power ahead of the new season in February.

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Dundalk will open the curtain to to 2018 domestic season with the annual Presidents Cup final against last seasons double winners Cork City and the "Rebels" received a major boost today with the news that captain, John Dunleavy has signed a one-year extension at Turners Cross.

Suffering a season ending injury in a league game at home in July, Dunleavy missed City's triumphant title run-in and cup final win over Dundalk with suggestions in recent weeks from some quarters that fitness concerns may have blocked Cork from re-signing their captain. However, last week City boss John Caulfield seemed to suggest a recovery plan was now in place for the full-back but despite that Dunleavy is still expected to be out of action until April at least, due to the serious knee injury sustained last season.

With Tobi Adebayo-Rowling and Colm Horgan both brought in over the off-season to compete for Dunleavy's vacant right-back position, the Cork 'skipper is likely to face a tough challenge in regaining his starting berth at Turners Cross next season.

Having lost the services of winger Stephen Dooley to Coleraine earlier this week, Cork fans will be delighted at the news of Dunleavy's contract extension as the full-back is much loved by supporters on Leeside.

In breaking news, Galway United defender Marc Ludden has signed a new deal which will bring him into a fifth season at Eamonn Deacy Park.

For more on these stories and to keep up to date with all the latest LOI news, make sure to follow us on Twitter @BetweenStripes.