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Clifford gets Southend axe

THE career of former Ireland U21 cap Conor Clifford is at a crossroads after Southend United confirmed that they had released the Dubliner.

Southend won promotion to League One last season but Clifford played only a bit part as he was loaned out to Conference champions Barnet, and now boss Phil Brown has announced that Clifford (above) - who was called into the senior Ireland squad four times by Giovanni Trapattoni - is one of three players to be handed a free transfer, though United have offered new deals to Irish lads Gary Deegan, Michael Timlin and Barry Corr.

"It's never nice releasing players but I think these three need to move on now," said Brown.

"Conor certainly played his part in our success this season and was fantastic in the first couple of months. Around Christmas time though we just felt as though we had left some players behind with the progress we had made.

"I'm not sure what the situation is with him and Barnet now but he's another lad who certainly leaves with all our best wishes."

Brown is also keen to sign Donegal lad Stephen McLaughlin, who was on loan from Nottingham Forest last season, on a long-term deal.