5 First Division players who could earn big summer moves
The summer transfer period is fast approaching and this season more than ever it looks like the business done over the coming weeks could play a major part in teams eventual fate come season's end.
At the top of the Premier Division, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers are locked in a bitter title race and it's fair to say the Hoops could do with finding a proven goal scorer if they are to truly push the champions this season. At the bottom, Harps and UCD face very different tasks with the Donegal side needing to identify some talent who can inspire improved performances, while Collie O'Neill's "Students" face being ripped apart by some of the bigger sides in the transfer market.
In the second tier, Longford Town have impressed greatly this season and are many people's favorites for the title but there is no doubting the fact Neale Fenn's side are not scoring enough goals to justify such claims and a centre-forward will have to be found by Fenn and co to make that dream a reality.
Despite question marks surrounding the quality or standard of play in the First Division, there is no doubt that there are some very talented players (and strikers in particular) currently plying their trade in the second tier. With that in mind, here are five players our reporter, Kieran Burke has identified as potential big movers over the coming weeks.
Jack Doherty (Wexford FC) - The arrival of Jack Doherty at Wexford FC in pre-season was viewed by many as a sign of just how far this previously highly rated youngster had fallen. Catching the eye with Waterford United, Doherty was soon scooped up by Ipswich Town but like many Irish youngsters, the winger failed to make the grade in England.
A return home soon followed but by the time Doherty signed for Longford Town in 2015, it was clear the youngsters confidence and in fact love for the game was gone, with Doherty clearly carrying extra pounds and spending more time in the stands at City Calling Stadium than on the pitch.
However, still only twenty-four, Doherty has arrived at Ferrycarrig Park in fantastic physical condition and looks to be enjoying his football again. Tricks, flicks and a sense of unpredictably, Doherty is one of the more technically gifted players in the division and has added an eye for goal to his playbook under Brian O'Sullivan this season. In fact, Doherty has contributed six of Wexford FC's fifteen league goals this season and many of Danny Furlong's five strikes have come through Doherty's creativity in midfield.
Perhaps Doherty favors remaining at a club where he is guaranteed game time and a starring role with little pressure from fans or pundits for results (Wexford currently sit bottom of the division) but should Doherty fancy a fresh challenge, he could certainly add some much needed creative spark to a side like Longford Town, Finn Harps, Derry City or Sligo Rovers, all teams struggling for goals this season.
Danny Furlong (Wexford FC) - It may seem strange that the side who currently sit bottom of the League of Ireland with just two wins all season feature two players in this article but Danny Furlong's track record at this level is unquestionable. Take away his disasterous time with Galway United last season, which was wrecked by injury, Furlong is perhaps one of the most lethal strikers ever seen in the First Division.
Wexford Youths all time leading goal scorer, the former Cork City strikee has scored exactly a third of Wexford's goals in the First Division this season and that is in a side struggling to create a hatfull of chances. Without Furlong, you'd wonder just how grim Brian O'Sullivan's debut season as manager may be and with division rivals Longford Town in desperate need of a proven goal scorer, something they haven't had since Davy O'Sullivan departed last winter, you'd surely expect clubs to be sniffing after the services of the former New Zealand based player.
Aodh Dervin (Longford Town) - Regarded by many who have seen him develop over the last eighteen months as not only the best young player in the division but best midfield player full stop, nineteen-year-old local lad Dervin has been a revelation for Longford this season.
A unique blend of determination, passion, speed, technical ability on the ball and leadership over players with twice his playing experience, Dervin is one of those talents that only comes along once in a blue moon, even with the very best of underage structures in place.
Contracted until the end of this season, Longford Town will fully expect to keep a hold of the fans favourite until at least the end of the current campaign. However, having stated his desire to play at a higher level in a recent interview with Between the Stripes TV, the vultures will be circling should Town not make it back to the promised land in time for next season.
Rob Manley (Cabinteely) - You couldn't put a piece like this together and not include the First Division's top goalscorer, especially when you consider the story behind Rob Manley's incredible rise to prominence this season. Without a club deep into pre-season, Manley's college manager called in a favor with current Cabo chief, Pat Devlin who gave the striker the chance to trial with the team.
Devlin liked what he saw immediately and brought Manley on board for the 2019 season. To cut a long story short, ten goals later and Manley is the name on everybody's lips. Big, strong, powerful and with laser like precision when it comes to tucking away chances, Cabinteely will have a major battle on their hands to keep a hold of the most wanted man in Ireland at this moment in time. With Roberts brother, Joe Manley currently on the books of Longford Town, idle speculation of a brotherly reunion has sparked up around the Midlands club but at the moment it is nothing more than a wish from De Town faithful.
James English (Shelbourne) - Having to settle for a place on the bench at times this season, due to the star studded nature of Shelbourne's first-team, English has also had to adapt to a new role in the Reds side with the striker operating from the right hand side of a front three.
Despite those challenges, English has terrorised defences at times this season, often being described as unplayable during discussions on Between the Stripes LOI podcast. A player gifted with incredible pace, close control and an ability to create or finish chances, English is a tough diamond just waiting to be polished and the side that do eventually take a punt on him are unlikely to regret it.
Again, with English breaking into Ian Morris's starting eleven in recent weeks and the Drumcondra club looking good for promotion, it is extremely unlikely such a talented player would be allowed leave the club now.
Denzil Fernandes (Cobh Ramblers) - Despite a disappointing campaign so far from the County Cork side, such a disappointing start that Stephen Henderson has in fact ruled out any possibility of reaching the play-offs this season, Cobh Ramblers have a number of highly talented youngsters making a name for themselves this season.
Honourable mentions to Kevin Taylor and Haze Kabia but it is wide-man, Denzil Fernandes who is the final player in today's selection. One of the stars of the Rams EA Sports Cup run last season, Fernandes is the perfect example of your modern day winger. Lighting quick, good off both feet, an ability to beat a defender inside and out and a desire to get on the end of chances at the back post, if Fernandes can continue to develop his game (and he will with the game time he is receiving at Cobh) then his name is one to watch out for over the coming years.
While a move up may potentially excite the youngster, the danger of becoming a bit-part player or just another clog in the wheel of a team who play a mundane style of football are major potential pit-falls for Fernandes and his manager, Stephen Henderson is sure to press those points home in an attempt to keep the talented forward at St.Colman's Park until the end of the current season at least.