There will be several players looking to impress in the coming season.
The League of Ireland Premier and First Divisions are set to resume shortly with the 2021 season rapidly approaching. With that, there will be several players looking to establish themselves as key players for their respective teams.
Players from a number of different avenues will be keen to impress including those promoted from their team’s youth system, fringe players and arrivals from other leagues.
Here are some players who we feel could impress in the Premier and First Division in the coming season.
JOE HODGE – DERRY CITY – MIDFIELDER
Highly-rated Manchester City midfielder Joe Hodge joined Derry City on loan last month to the surprise of many League of Ireland fans.
The 18-year-old midfielder has an ever-growing reputation and has been touted as a potential star of the future.
Some of his achievements to date include winning Manchester City Scholar of the Year, Republic of Ireland u17 Player of the Year and helping his Manchester City side to the FA Youth Cup last year.
Hodge is a technical, diminutive midfielder with a combative edge. Some Ireland fans will be aware of his quality from watching him in various underage tournaments.
Unfortunately Hodge sustained an injury recently which may keep him from playing the opening weeks of the season. However, if he can keep fit, he could become one of Derry City’s standout players.
⚽️ WHAT A GOAL!!!
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) JULY 15, 2019
BASTIEN HERY – BOHEMIANS – MIDFIELDER
Most League of Ireland fans will be familiar with Bastien Hery from his time at Limerick and Waterford. He played a handful of seasons for both clubs before heading up north to sign for Linfield.
After just over one year in Northern Ireland, Hery returned to the Republic for the upcoming season as he signed with Dublin club Bohemians.
A highly-technical and exciting midfielder, Hery should have what it takes to establish himself as a key member in the Bohemians starting XI.
His performances in the 2018 League of Ireland season seen him named in the Team of the Year. Bohemians fans will be hoping he can produce similar displays this time around.
DANNY MANDROIU – SHAMROCK ROVERS – MIDFIELDER
Once considered a key player – if not the key player – in the Bohemians side, Mandroiu’s gametime dramatically decreased towards the backend of last season, suggesting there could be internal problems between the player and club.
In light of his lack of playing time, most expected Mandroiu would leave Bohemians at the end of last season. However, few would have anticipated where he’d end up.
In what could be construed as a slap in the face to Bohemians and their supporters, he decided to join fierce rivals Shamrock Rovers for the 2021 season.
The former Ireland u21 midfielder is an immense talent and undoubtedly one of the best footballers in the league. He could be just what Rovers need to fill the void left by the departure of Jack Byrne.
RYAN O’KANE – DUNDALK – WINGER
Dundalk have signed a myriad of international talent over the transfer window. However, local teenager Ryan O’Kane might be the most exciting of the lot.
O’Kane signed a three-year professional contract with the Lilywhites ahead of the 2021 season and he could play a pivotal role this year, despite his young age.
The 17-year-old made his unofficial debut for Dundalk last Friday in a friendly against Bohemians with many viewers claiming he was man of the match.
Before signing for Dundalk, O’Kane played in the Northern Irish top-flight for Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville, making his debut at the age of 15 for the former.
It’s unlikely that O’Kane will become a key player for Dundalk this season given his age and lack of experience. Nevertheless, there’s every chance he could become a useful rotation option.
LOI TALENT WATCH: Thread on the excellent performance of Dundalk’s 17 year-old debutant winger Ryan O’Kane in their friendly against Bohemians on Friday 🇮🇪⚽️🔥 pic.twitter.com/Q832HDLxtT
— Kenny’s Kids (@KennysKids) FEBRUARY 27, 2021
Honourable mentions: Conor Kane (Drogheda United), Aaron Bolger (Longford Town), Liam Burt (Bohemians).
BRANDON KAVANAGH – BRAY WANDERERS – MIDFIELDER
Most League of Ireland fans will already be aware of Brandon Kavanagh. The 20-year-old midfielder has been in and around the Shamrock Rovers first team for years but has yet failed to establish himself as a regular.
Kavanagh spent last season playing in the First Division with Shamrock Rovers II. He impressed so much with his performances that he was included in the PFAI First Division Team of the Year.
He even managed to garner interest from Crystal Palace with his impressive performances. However, he remains a Shamrock Rovers player for the time being.
Although many thought Kavanagh was poised to establish himself as a key member of the Rover’s first team this season, he will instead ply his trade in the First Division again, this time on loan at Bray Wanderers.
A highly technical and creative midfielder, Brandon Kavanagh could be just what Bray Wanderers need in establishing a title challenge.
YOYO MAHDY – SHELBOURNE – STRIKER
Shelbourne suffered the heartbreak of losing the promotion/relegation play-off final to Longford Town last season meaning they were relegated to the First Division.
They have, however, recruited well for the upcoming season.
Yoyo Mahdy is just one of those recruits looking to make an impact.
Mahdy played for UCD in the First Division last season and finished as the league’s top scorer with 15 goals, just ahead of his teammate Colm Whelan who scored 14.
Clearly Mahdy knows where the back of the net is. He should score numerous goals this season given he’s provided adequate service.
RICARDO DINANGA – CORK CITY – WINGER
From league champions to relegation in a matter of 3 years. Cork City had a horrific 2020 season, finishing bottom of the table with just 11 points in 18 games.
Although relegation is obviously a negative thing, it may provide an opportunity for some younger players to break into the first team.
Of all their prospects, Dinanga might just be the one with the most potential.
The 19-year-old featured sporadically in the first team last season, scoring a couple of goals in the process.
Perhaps his most memorable moment last season came after scoring a brilliant extra time winner against Longford Town in the FAI Cup. He cut inside from the right-wing after latching onto a long ball, beat his man and finished with his left foot into the top corner.
If there’s any player that could break into the Cork starting XI this season, it’s Dinanga.
INCREDIBLE! LAST MINUTE!
What a goal and @CorkCityFC take the lead (1-0)
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) AUGUST 11, 2020
RONAN MANNING – GALWAY UNITED – MIDFIELDER
Despite finishing bottom of the First Division last season, Athlone Town showed glimpses of promise under manager Adrian Carberry.
Their best player was Ronan Manning. He now finds himself at Galway United for the upcoming season.
Manning scored 8 goals in 18 league appearances last term and will be hoping for a similar turn for Galway United.
Manning is a Galway native and has played for the club before between 2017 and 2018. He then took a break from football in 2019 before signing for Athlone in 2020, a decision which proved to be fruitful.
Galway are one of the promotion favourites this season having ended the 2020 season strongly under the guidance of John Caulfield.
Manning could prove a vital player if Galway are to find themselves at the top end of the First Division table.
Honourable mentions: Dylan McGlade (Cork City), Joel Coustrain (Treaty United), Killian Cantwell (Athlone Town).