RECENT exports from Dalymount Park to foreign fields have done quite well for themselves, and Bohemians boss Pat Fenlon believes that in-form striker Paddy Madden has what it takes to play at a high level abroad.
But Fenlon hopes to hang on to his leading scorer for another while even though cross-channel scouts are starting to take notice of the 20-year-old.
Madden is technically in his third season of League of Ireland football but it's his first season proper in the top flight as he spent half of last term on loan to Division One side Shelbourne. The Finglas man has taken the league by storm, his feat of scoring nine goals in five games earning him the award of June's player of the month from the Airtricity Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland.
Madden drew a blank in Tuesday's Champions League win over TNS (Killian Brennan scored the only goal) but he was denied a possible hat-trick by the Welsh side's keeper. He will no doubt have revenge in mind for the second leg of that tie away from home next Tuesday, and the location of the game -- TNS are the Welsh champions but their ground is in England -- is only an hour's drive from places like Liverpool and Birmingham should any club manager or scout want to attend the game.
In the last three years, Bohs have sold three players to British clubs and all have done very well: Stephen Ward proved a bargain for Wolves at just €200,000 and has already played in the Premier League, Gary Deegan was also good value for Coventry City at €90,000 and Brian Murphy is a key figure at Roy Keane's Ipswich.
So could Madden follow the same route?
"I don't want to lose Paddy, or any of our players, but he's good enough to play at a higher level, I have no doubt about that," Fenlon told the Herald ahead of tonight's league clash with Sligo Rovers. "I have to be realistic and admit that if an offer with big money comes in we will have to listen to it, the same as with any club and with any player at this club.
"The good thing about Paddy's situation is that he's under the age, he's under 24, and he's under contract for another two years so if he does go anywhere in that time it won't be on the cheap.
"I have never stood in a player's way when it came to transfers -- if the offer was right for the player and the club -- and that's the case with Paddy.
"If an offer comes in for him for big money, if the deal was right for Paddy and for Bohemians, then it might happen and we'd wish him the best, but not until then. "I don't honestly feel that Paddy is ready to go away just yet. Last year we lost Gary and Brian from the squad and they went straight into the teams with their clubs in England. They were playing Championship football straight away, but the difference is that they were a bit older, they were in their mid-20s and Paddy's still young. He's only 20 and he's still learning. Having a full season with Bohs this year will be a big help in his development and I'd like to see him stay with us next season as well.
"If he does go abroad, I think he'd be fine. One of the best things about Paddy is that he has no fear in his game and it wouldn't faze him in the slightest if he did have to go away," added Fenlon.
British clubs have had mixed fortunes when it comes to buying players from the League of Ireland. Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, David Meyler and Stephen Ward all played in the English Premier League and excelled even though they were all flogged off on the cheap, their clubs (Cork City and Bohemians) taking in less than £350,000 for the four of them.
But others who went for bigger transfer fees didn't do so well: earlier this summer Sunderland released Roy O'Donovan after he failed to live up to his early potential there while only yesterday Reading admitted they were prepared to take a loss on €400,000 signing from Cork City Dave Mooney and allow him leave once he can find a club.
Fenlon has played alongside and managed some good exports to the UK like Curtis Fleming, Richie Foran and Brian Murphy and he reckons that Madden has the character to succeed.
"It's all down to attitude," says the Bohs boss, who himself had a spell abroad as a player with Chelsea when he was in his teens.
"If you go over there with the attitude that you've already made it then you won't get anywhere and that is the problem with some players. They get a club in England and think they've landed on their feet and that the hard work is done.
"The lads we had last season, Deega and Murph, weren't like that. They worked hard the minute they got to England and because they had the right attitude, they did well," added Fenlon.
"I was glad to see Paddy get the player of the month award as he deserves it. His rewards were all the goals he's got and he's done everything asked of him." Madden plays on the European stage again next week but he hopes for better fortunes than the first leg against TNS, when he failed to convert a hatful of chances.
"Paddy was disappointed not to score, but again his attitude was superb," added his manager.
"He was back in training and his attitude was spot on. With an older player the misses might bother him and get him down, but Paddy's so young and enthusiastic that he didn't let it get to him."