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GREEN, LEAN & keen

FANCY SIGNING up an Ireland international over the summer?

Well there's a full team of ex-Ireland caps still up for grabs on the transfer market across the water.

Lee Carsley (Birmingham), Steve Finnan (Portsmouth), Gary Breen (Barnet) and Jonathan Macken (Barnsley) are all ex-internationals, all in their 30s, have all played in the Premier League, but are all free agents this summer after being allowed leave their clubs.

Add in former Ireland men like Nick Colgan (Grimsby), Alex Bruce, Colin Healy and Alan Quinn (all Ipswich), Alan Maybury (Colchester), Jim Goodwin (Huddersfield) and Stephen Elliott (Preston) and you have an XI of boys in green who are available for work, as all of those players remain under contract with their clubs but have been made available for transfer.

In all, more than 30 Irish players are currently free agents having been released by their clubs or are on the transfer list, from the Premier League (West Ham duo Terry Dixon and Daniel Kearns, Newcastle defender Callum Morris) through the lower leagues (Sean Thornton, given a free transfer by Orient) and down to the lower depths (three Irish lads who were with Darlington last season are now out of work as Darlo were relegated to the Conference).

The fact that Carsley (36) and Finnan (34) played in England's top flight only last May and are still available shows that old pros can no longer pick up new contracts with the ease of past times, though the duo are expected to find new clubs in the next month, with Roy Keane reportedly eager to bring Carsley to Ipswich. And some of the old servants of the Irish game remain popular as Mark Kennedy (Cardiff) and David Connolly (Southampton) have signed new deals with their clubs.



Slumming

But the lack of movement for Finnan is the same reason why Francis Jeffers is this summer slumming it by training with Huddersfield Town: money is tight.

That's why one of the first things Darren Ferguson did after his appointment as Preston manager was to look at the size of the squad, the quality of players in the squad and the crippling wage bill and realise that the sums didn't add up, average players earning a basic wage of £10,000 a week at an underachieving club like Preston.

So Ferguson placed eight first-team players on the transfer list, including two Irishmen. One has already moved as Eddie Nolan was shipped out to Championship rivals Scunthorpe on a six-month loan deal while Dubliner Stephen Elliott is on the move after Ferguson made it clear he had no future there, and three lower-league clubs (Brighton, Huddersfield and Charlton) are now keen to sign Elliott.

There's a similar story at Ipswich, where Roy Keane has reacted to a poor season for the Tractor Boys last term by wielding the axe, eight players (four of them Irish) told they can leave, some even forced to train with the youth team in case they were in any doubt over their futures there.

Of course the transfer market has not dried up completely for Irish players, as so far this summer no less than 41 Irish players have changed clubs. Those moves vary from top-flight sales (Stephen Hunt going from Hull to Wolves), lower-league deals (Clinton Morrison swapping Coventry for Sheffield Wednesday), non-league moves (Dubliner Mick Cummins went from Rotherham to Conference side Grimsby) and some returned emigrants (Colin Hawkins and Stephen O'Flynn coming back to the League of Ireland).

Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and Kevin Doyle are repeatedly linked with big-money moves this summer but they are likely to stay put.

More deals will come, some of them for big money as Liam Lawrence (Stoke), Daryl Murphy (Sunderland), Anthony Stokes (Hibs) and Sean St Ledger (Preston) could find themselves at Celtic next season, if Neil Lennon can come up with the cash.

Andy Keogh's days at Wolves appear to be at an end as Mick McCarthy is willing to listen to offers for him. Keogh's former club Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers were both eager to sign the international on a season-long loan deal having been frightened off by the sticker price of £2m, but McCarthy says he's not interested.

"I think Andy will want to stay in the Premier League. He was our best player at the start of last season. There's also no chance of Andy going out on loan," McCarthy said.

Ireland U21 captain Owen Garvan (pictured) looks set to end his long association with Ipswich Town and exit Portman Road, with Crystal Palace trying to come up with the £100,000 needed for his services, Garvan one of four Irish players transfer-listed by Roy Keane along with Alan Quinn, Alex Bruce and Colin Healy.

Coventry City have done some tidy business in relation to Irish players, signing Stephen O'Halloran (Aston Villa), Roy O'Donovan (Sunderland) and Richard Keogh (Carlisle).


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