Championship duo ready to battle it out for red-hot Towell
Championship sides Charlton and Barnsley are monitoring the progress of Dundalk midfielder Richie Towell.
The 22-year-old is continuing to impress in his second season with the Louth men and has signed a contract that expires when the campaign ends in November, which means he would be free to move for nothing at that point.
His suitors would have to pay a transfer fee if they made a move during the summer. Both Charlton and Barnsley are battling to avoid relegation from the English second tier but are already looking to strengthen their ranks for next term.
Barnsley visited Oriel Park for a friendly against Stephen Kenny's side before the beginning of the season and were impressed by Towell, while representatives of Charlton have been to watch Dundalk more than once this term as they keep tabs on the ex-Celtic youth.
Teenage midfielder Georgie Poynton, who signed his first professional contract in February, is also in demand.
The 16-year-old has impressed with Dundalk's U-19 side and has spent time training at Middlesbrough, with Leicester City also interested.
The Irish U-17 international signed a two-year deal, which means that the Oriel Park club are in a stronger position if a firm offer is made.
For now, they are concentrating on maintaining their position at the top of table ahead of a second home meeting this week with Shamrock Rovers.
The fallout from Tuesday night's Setanta Cup win over Trevor Croly's side has been dominated by the visitors' complaints about Dundalk's watering policy with regard to their unpopular plastic pitch.
Croly claimed that the natives only watered the Rovers half of the pitch during the interval so it would be easier for Kenny's charges when they went on the attack.
The FAI were informed of the grievance but were powerless to act because the competition does not come under their jurisdiction. However, it's understood they have contacted Dundalk to ascertain what happened.
While Rovers don't enjoy their trips up the M1, the border club are happy with yesterday's announcement that they will be heading in the opposite direction for the final of the Setanta in Tallaght.
They had been informed that the organisers were leaning towards staging the May 10 decider at the Showgrounds base of their opponents, Sligo Rovers, and indicated they would oppose that verdict if it was reached.
But for the fourth time in five years, the Dublin 24 venue will stage the decider.
The squabbling over watering policy has added a further bit of spice to a fixture that rarely lacks it. Croly's team come into tonight's encounter looking to avoid their fourth away defeat on the trot after losses against Cork and St Patrick's Athletic ahead of the Setanta reverse.
Midfielder Stephen McPhail concedes they can't afford to lose too much ground on the table-toppers but is also conscious they will move level on points with Dundalk should they win.
"It's important they don't get too far away from us," said the former Irish international. "But it's not a must-win. We have to try and perform properly; hopefully the result takes care of itself.
"The game against St Pat's got away from us as we were well in the game (before Luke Byrne's controversial red card). We controlled it for long periods even with 10 men."
Cork City are two points behind Dundalk with a game in hand and they welcome Drogheda United to Turner's Cross this evening, with boss John Caulfield confident they can stay at the right end of the table for the long haul.
"We're six games in, so far we have played really well and the crowd have supported us," said Caulfield. "If we keep working hard and, hopefully, get our injury situation cleared up, it might mean that we have a chance of staying up there.
"If we can keep focused and keep ourselves grounded, which I believe we will do, then I think we can hang in there."