Towell boost for Dundalk with decision to stay at Oriel
The League of Ireland champions Dundalk received a timely boost yesterday when their key player in last year's title success, Richie Towell, confirmed that he would be staying with the club.
Having gone on trial at Cardiff, and having been the subject of intense interest from Blackpool, Towell appeared certain to be on his way out of Oriel Park. Instead he is staying with the club for a third season.
"We have a stronger team than last year," said the former Irish U-21 international. "So the aim is to try and retain our title. We know that represents a huge challenge but that's our aim. We want to have a go in every competition and we have the Champions League to look forward to as well, so hopefully we can get a good run there too."
Elsewhere, current Irish U-21 international Jack Grealish has six offers from Championship clubs who want to take him on loan. Wolves, Bournemouth, Ipswich, Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Brentford have made Aston Villa aware that they want the midfielder for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, Grealish's U-21 international manager Noel King is in Nyon today awaiting the European Championship U-21 draw, while hoping the expansion of the tournament can play a part in Ireland qualifying for the finals for the first time.
Ranked in the fourth tier of seeds, alongside Finland, Wales, Hungary, Iceland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus, Ireland face a tough job emerging from the qualifiers for the 2017 finals in Poland.
With 11 countries due to join their Polish hosts for those finals, King is pinning his hopes on Grealish returning from exile and reuniting with his U-21 team-mates, having taken time out last August to decide on his international future.
"This draw sorts out our calendar for the next 24 months and that's exciting in itself," said King. "But with a few more positions up for grabs, with those extra four places, there is an increased opportunity for all of the countries who enter the qualifiers.
"We've been working with the players who are eligible for this age-group for the past couple of months and there will be another year's batch to join them coming up shortly. So we are hopeful."
Equally optimistic of a breakthrough is Gearoid Morrissey, the former Cork City player, who made his debut for Cambridge at Old Trafford on Tuesday. "What we have to understand is that he is still in some type of transition regarding fitness," said Cambridge manager Richard Money. "It's almost like a mini pre-season for him. But he will get there, no doubt."