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Cooke points way forward

DROGHEDA UNITED are trying to plan ahead for next season and keep their squad on board to make sure that their memorable 2012 campaign is not a one-off.

Mick Cooke's side have already enjoyed success this season, lifting the League Cup and guaranteeing Setanta Sports Cup football for next season, while United can also secure European football for next year with a win at home to newly crowned league champions Sligo Rovers tonight.

The lure of Europa League football would draw a lot of out-of-work players towards Drogheda and manager Cooke will be in a position to bring some top talents to the club, especially if - as expected - Shamrock Rovers launch a clearout at the end of the season.

Cooke is also battling to keep his squad intact, with six players verbally on board for next season in spite of interest from foreign clubs in his players.

"If we can secure a place in Europe, then Drogheda will be a very attractive place to play next season and I am realistic enough to know that if we are in Europe I'd need to sign one or two players with European experience," says Cooke, as Drogheda prepare to welcome champions Sligo to Hunky Dorys Park.


"But I want to keep the squad intact as much as possible. It's inevitable that some players, who haven't been able to get as many games as they'd like this season, will leave as they want to play games, but I want to keep the bulk of the squad here."

Derek Prendergast, Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan, Micheal Schlingermann, Philip Hand and 'Fabio' O'Brien have all told Cooke that they want to stay on for next season, but the United boss could face a battle to hold on to some of those players.

Three British clubs -- two in the SPL and one in the Championship in England - have expressed an interest in Ryan Brennan and Foley, while Gavin Brennan is also being tracked by cross-channel clubs.

And keeper Gabriel Sava could be on his way to Swedish side Hacken with the Italian native being offered a second trial by the club.

"It's likely that Ryan Brennan and Eric Foley will go across the water for trials when the season here is over, and there is a lot of interest in Gavin Brennan as well, so we'll see what happens with them," says Cooke.

"They are young men who are at a good stage in their careers and while I would hate to see them go I can't stand in their way if they get a good offer to go abroad. The club in Sweden are very keen on Gabriel. He has been there for a trial already and they had someone at the League Cup final last month.

"They were very impressed with him and I think they'll ask him to go back again.

"I would love to keep them all here if I can and if lads like Ryan Brennan don't move abroad I'd be confident that they will re-sign for us," added the United boss.

Five years after they won the league title on their home patch in Drogheda, United fans will welcome the new league winners to the Co Louth venue as Sligo were confirmed as league champions with their 3-2 win over St Patrick's Athletic last week.


Sligo securing the league title with two games to spare could suit Drogheda, as Sligo can afford to drop down a gear in their final games while Drogheda push on in their bid to secure second place ahead of St Pats.

"I'm sure Sligo have been celebrating and having a few pints since Saturday, I know I would if I had won the league," Cooke says.

"You could say their players will be switched off for this game, but on the other hand you have lads in that Sligo squad who haven't played much this season and will see their game with us tonight as a chance to impress.

"So it's a big game for us. I feel we'll need two points to make sure of Europe for next year and I'd like to get all three points tonight."