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Towell: I'm still eyeing up Premier ambitions

IT'S A LONG way from the Leinster Senior League to the English Premier League, but Ireland U-21cap Richie Towell still aims to make it at the highest level across the water from his current base in the non-league scene.

This time last year, Towell was watching his career take flight as he tasted SPL football at Hibernian while on loan from Celtic and he was also a key member of an Ireland U-21 side which had started the European Championship qualifying campaign with three wins from four games.

But following his release from Celtic in the summer and the lack of firm offers from other clubs, Towell ended up back home in Dublin, playing for non-league side Bluebell United and hoping to catch the eye of some manager or scout.

Still only 21, Towell says he believes he can bounce back and, some day, join his former U-21 team-mates like Robbie Brady by playing at the top level in England.

"It seems like a long way away at the moment but I feel I could play in the Premier League in England, I don't know if that will happen for me but I still have ambitions," Towell told the Evening Herald.

"You ask any player where they want to play and it has to be at the top level and I am no different, so I have to keep that ambition alive. And it can happen. I played for the Irish U-21s with Enda Stevens when he was at Shamrock Rovers and just look how far Enda has gone already, he's made the Aston Villa first team and has played against Manchester United and Manchester City, two of the richest clubs in the world, so you have to keep your hopes alive that things can turn around for you," added Towell, who 13 months ago played in front of 45,000 fans at Ibrox.


"It's been a hard few months but I think this has made me stronger and more determined, I am really focused now on getting a club, probably in the League of Ireland, and getting back to England at some stage."

He's not the first Irish player to come back home after a spell with a big British club and find himself outside of the senior club scene - Keith Fahey of course had a spell with Bluebell during one of the difficult periods early on in his career and Fahey got his career going with spells at St Patrick's Athletic, and ended up with senior Ireland caps and Premier League experience on his CV.

But Towell's slide from being in the SPL with Hibs and the Irish U-21 side - he's won an impressive 12 caps at that level - is remarkable for the speed at which it happened.

At the end of last season his contract with Celtic was up and they didn't offer him a new deal while Hibs boss Pat Fenlon declined to keep Towell on once his loan deal was up.

So the former Crumlin United man waited for offers to come in, but nothing concrete was put on the table.

"There was talk of all sorts of clubs being interested, clubs in Bulgaria and Russia and places like that but I was keen to try and get a club in England, to stay close to home," says Towell.

But no firm offer came in, he missed the boat in terms of the League of Ireland transfer deadline and ended up signing for Bluebell United, where he's currently working hard on trying to impress. "We had a game against Phoenix last Sunday and there were a few managers and scouts there," says Towell, who is being tracked by Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne and Derry City.

"I know the League of Ireland season is still a good bit away but I'd like to get a deal with a club here, have a really good season in the league next year and then try to get back across the water. I am still young and I have a lot more to offer, mates of mine like Aaron Doran and Gavin Gunning have done really well in the SPL this season and Conor Clifford's been in the senior Irish squad, so if I am high and keep working hard it could happen for me," he added.