Former United keeper gets 'Coll' ahead of FIFPRO trip
Former Manchester United keeper Joe Coll last night answered an SOS after an injury to Gabriel Sava threw Irish preparations for this week's FIFPRO tournament in Norway into disarray.
At one stage yesterday, the PFAI were facing up the prospect of travelling to Oslo today without a goalkeeper and looking for a local option after former Drogheda netminder Sava was ruled out with an elbow complaint sustained in a friendly with Cherry Orchard.
Liam O'Brien is in charge of a 17-man squad which will compete against fellow out-of-work pros from Sweden, Finland and Norway in a four-team tournament on Thursday with a view to impressing scouts and securing contracts.
Coll (20) made the headlines as a teenager when he left his native Donegal to join United but he failed to make the grade at Old Trafford and was unused cover with Derry City in 2013. He accepted a call after PFAI chief Stephen McGuinness worked his contacts book to avoid a disastrous start to the week.
The PFAI run a winter training camp for unemployed players, but League of Ireland sides have conducted their transfer business quicker this year, thus weakening O'Brien's panel. Goalkeepers Craig Hyland and Aaron Shanahan were on board until they agreed deals with Shamrock Rovers and Ballymena respectively.
O'Brien won't be the only previous international on the sideline. Ex-Premier League players Anders Limpar and Roland Nilsson will take charge of the Swedish side.
"In Sweden, they have to get high-profile guys to attract players to come to it," explained McGuinness.
Norway are scheduled to have a man who recently made headlines across the world in their camp. Zahir Belhounis, the French-Algerian footballer who was trapped in Qatar for 19 months as he was refused a visa to leave due to a dispute over unpaid wages, is pencilled in to make an appearance. FIFPRO, the global players union, were involved in his release.
McGuinness hopes that a member of the Irish party will secure a contract abroad, although he acknowledges that the real value of the three previous renewals has been alerting League of Ireland managers to reformed individuals.
Mark Griffin, an expensive Derry recruit ahead of the 2013 season, tore up his contract on Friday after Roddy Collins said he wasn't part of his plans. Ex-Shamrock Rovers defender Conor Powell is also eager to find an overseas home.
Garreth Brady -- younger brother of Irish international Robbie -- has made a good impression in training. John Sullivan and Tiernan Mulvenna were involved in the title race with Dundalk last year but are available, although the Lilywhites may yet re-sign the latter, and they might face competition from the Hoops.