McPhail on Rovers' radar as he weighs up new deal at Wednesday
Shamrock Rovers have resurrected their interest in the former Ireland international Stephen McPhail – who is weighing up a fresh contract offer from Sheffield Wednesday against the possibility of returning home to settle in Ireland.
A native of Rush, Co Dublin, McPhail, at 34, has little left to prove in English football, having appeared in the semi-finals of the Champions League and UEFA Cup when at Leeds, prior to captaining Cardiff in the 2008 FA Cup final.
Still, Wednesday's financial might outmuscles Rovers'. For McPhail, coming home now would be a lifestyle choice as much as a sporting one.
As his rivals hope to complete that piece of business, St Pat's manager Liam Buckley admitted that he still plans to make one signing before the start of the League of Ireland season in March, with an unnamed American striker arriving in Dublin next week for a trial.
Otherwise, Buckley's immediate plan is to open negotiations with the FAI to see if Pat's can put a 'B' team into next year's First Division, in line with the move Shamrock Rovers made last month.
"We would certainly have considered doing that this season if it had been offered to us," said Buckley. "But last year I was told that professional players were not allowed to play in a 'B' team so I didn't pursue the issue.
"We need to know the rules for next season now and then see what finances are required to run such a team because the current system does not suit. When players finish with U-19 football, many are too young to go into an adult team.
"We need a better structure – either an U-21 league or a reserve league – than what is there at this moment in time because we are going to lose too many kids, probably to Shamrock Rovers, who will be able to hand-pick the best kids from our U-19 team, from UCD's, Bray's."
A change in structure is unlikely to happen, with league director Fran Gavin expressing confidence in the existing policy, pointing out that the 20 clubs in last season's League of Ireland turned over a €400,000 collective profit.
In negotiations with Airtricity to extend their sponsorship, Gavin is finalising his accounts for 2013, which are likely to show that the League's turnover for the season just gone exceeded €12m as well as putting together a working group to help the four clubs who have qualified for next season's European competitions.
"Last year was disappointing," said Gavin, "with our clubs going out in the first round, the first time that has happened in a long time (1999).