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20 exciting League of Ireland prospects to watch out for in 2020


Luke McNally of Pat's, Bohs' Callum Thompson and Shamrock Rovers star Neil Farrugia

Luke McNally of Pat's, Bohs' Callum Thompson and Shamrock Rovers star Neil Farrugia

Luke McNally of Pat's, Bohs' Callum Thompson and Shamrock Rovers star Neil Farrugia

THE age profile of the League of Ireland has dropped dramatically in the past two decades and the season ahead should be another reflection of that.

Last year's PFAI Player of the Year, Jack Byrne, was also eligible for the Young Player category where Bohemians' Danny Mandroiu claimed the most votes.

Both of those Dublin playmakers are still around for the year ahead.

Here, we take a look at 20 prospects for 2020 which should grow their profile across the coming 12 months.

Neil Farrugia

(Shamrock Rovers)

The 20-year-old joined the Hoops from UCD last summer with a hamstring problem and therefore he hasn't really announced himself in Rovers colours yet. Farrugia still has a life off the park; he scored 600 points in his Leaving Cert and has spurned offers to go to England in order to complete his Biomedical Science degree. That's done this summer and if he gets properly fit, then expect the hype levels to rise.

Luke McNally

(St Patrick's Athletic)

McNally is ready to make an impact with the Saints after thriving on loan with Drogheda. His manager there, Tim Clancy, had been speaking to his friend Stephen O'Donnell throughout the year about the football quality and strong character possessed of the versatile defender. O'Donnell now gets to work with him as Saints boss.

Clancy feels McNally (20) ticks all the boxes and can become the outstanding prospect in the country.

Darragh Leahy


Leahy is a member of Stephen Kenny's Ireland U-21 squad with injury ruling him out of the October and November windows.

He was keen on a move to the champions after excelling with Bohemians, and he faces a battle to unship Dane Massey.

Leahy made a good impression during the pre-season by reporting in excellent shape and it's a big year for him with club and country.

Anto Breslin


Breslin has just turned 23, making him the oldest player on the list, but he's an unknown quantity at League of Ireland Premier Division level.

The attacking left-back has joined from Longford Town with manager Daire Doyle expecting the former Wolves trainee to make a big splash in the top flight.

When Bohemians lost Leahy to Dundalk, there was no panic as Breslin was lined up.

Donal Higgins


Players from Galway have excelled with other clubs but Higgins (18) is doing his thing for United, thrilling crowds with his willingness to take players on and his strength in spite of his size.

The Irish U19 player has plans to study Medicine in Galway.

"Intelligent on and off the pitch," says his boss Alan Murphy.

Joe Redmond

(Cork City)

It's very hard to know how things will go for Cork this year with Neale Fenn scouring the UK loan market to plug gaps in his squad. Redmond is a Dubliner on the books of Birmingham and the centre half isn't afraid to put in a tackle.

Niall Morahan

(Sligo Rovers)

The Leitrim prospect was a member of the Ireland squad for last summer's European Championships in Armenia. He's viewed as a reliable performer with a willingness to learn. The hard working midfielder can also revert to full-back if necessary.

Liam Scales

(Shamrock Rovers)

Another player to make the move from UCD to Shamrock Rovers after featuring for Kenny's U-21 squad. A move to Bristol Rovers collapsed last summer, and he will continue his development at home.

Strong on the ball and Rovers are looking to develop the necessary physicality to go with it so he becomes the full centre-half package.

Jack Malone

(Derry City)

There's plenty of choice in Derry with Eoin Toal only 20 and already well established and Stephen Mallon an interesting loanee. But there's a charm in the story of Malone as he's come all the way through the City ranks to win a professional deal after being a commanding presence in their U19 side.

Adrian Delap

(Finn Harps)

It's a testament to Derry's options that Delap has gone out on loan to Finn Harps for six months to further his development. Delap made his name scoring in local leagues in Donegal and can benefit from a run of games to show what he can do in the Premier Division.

Andrew Moran

(Bray Wanderers)

He became Bray's youngest ever player last season at 15 years and 307 days. The skilful attacking midfielder is set to be involved from the start of the season and it was striking to watch the diminutive operator confidently drop into pockets and look to create opportunities in a friendly with Shelbourne last week. Wes Hoolahan used to do similar things at Tolka Park. Moran won't be around for long, though. He's joining Brighton in July.

Leigh Kavanagh

(Bray Wanderers)

Like Moran, he's another product of the St Joseph's Boys academy who has transitioned to Bray Wanderers' colours. He's a different type of player, though, a centre-half who looks assured on the ball. Kavanagh has also just turned 16 and will be off to Brighton with his team-mate in July. It's likely he will get some first team minutes before he goes.

Richie O'Farrell


It's a bit of surprise that the ex-St Patrick's Athletic and UCD attacking midfielder will be operating in the second tier this year and he should thrive with a more experienced Drogheda side that is targeting promotion.

Ben McCormack

(St Patrick's Athletic)

It's possible that he may only have a peripheral role in 2020 but the Saints have committed to signing promising teens on professional deals with Darragh Burns another name to note. Midfielder McCormack (16) was bumped up to the Irish U17s in November where he shone and signing him up should prove to be shrewd business.

Brandon Kavanagh

(Shamrock Rovers)

At every club outside the top two, the playmaker would already be first choice but he's had to be patient in a Rovers squad stacked with creative options that can function as a number ten. Another to be saddled with the 'next Wes Hoolahan' tag although others have referenced Damien Duff in how he skips past pursuers. It's plausible that he will benefit most from the Shamrock Rovers II experiment.

Shane Farrell


A real favourite at Shelbourne, and not just because of his football ability. Teammates couldn't get their head around a teenager who didn't have a mobile phone when he joined, nor his own e-mail address. The midfielder likes to do his own thing and has bundles of natural talent.

Callum Thompson


Thompson was in the Irish U17 side that was harshly treated in that Euros shootout with Holland when goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran was red-carded.

Troy Parrott, Adam Idah, Nathan Collins and Jason Knight were in that team.

Thompson is devastatingly quick and had been training twice a week with the Wolves first team but he was starved of game-time with the U23s and keen to come home. The right winger is on loan until July; the exciting Danny Grant is a formidable rival for that berth.

Aodh Dervin


Dervin is a local lad with a real passion for the club, yet there was a fear he would be tempted by a move to a full-time environment. The midfielder stuck around and is considered a real prospect; a tidy player and hard worker with an eye for goal.

Tyreke Wilson


A textbook example of a player coming home looking to kickstart their career. Left-back Wilson has the pedigree from the Manchester City academy and unsurprisingly he's good on the ball but manager Alan Reynolds has praised the Dubliner's tenacity too.

Yousef Mahdy


The students toiled last term with their squad pillaged and new boss Andy Myler has a job on his hands. They did manage to hold onto Mahdy, an Irish-Egyptian striker who acquitted himself well in the Premier Division and should therefore thrive in the second tier.

Online Editors