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Our ranking of the top 18 transfers between League of Ireland clubs for 2018

Here are the best bits of business conducted in domestic football during the off-season, in our humble opinion.

WITH THE VAST majority of players having to settle for one-year contracts, there’s seldom a lack of off-season movement between clubs in the League of Ireland.

This winter was no different, so we’ve decided to rank the best 18 transfers that have taken place within the league ahead of the start of the 2018 campaign, which begins for Premier Division sides this Friday night. The First Division kicks off seven days later.

Note: This list focuses on player movement between domestic clubs. Plenty of newcomers have arrived from abroad, but how they’ll adapt to life in the weird but wonderful world of the SSE Airtricity League is anyone’s guess, so there’s no point in us speculating/spoofing.

18. Ryan Connolly (Shamrock Rovers to Galway United) 

Ryan Connolly Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After a year in Tallaght which was hampered by injury, the former Derby County midfielder should play a key role in Galway’s promotion push after returning for a second spell at Eamonn Deacy Park.

17. Colm Horgan (Galway United to Cork City)

Colm Horgan Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

One of several players who left Galway following their relegation, the reliable right-back is capable of establishing himself in the champions’ defence but will face competition from the likes of Steven Beattie and fellow newcomer Tobi-Adebayo Rowling.

16. Ethan Boyle (Finn Harps to Shamrock Rovers)

Ethan Boyle with Aidan Keenan Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A versatile 20-year-old who can play in midfield and defence, Boyle spent two seasons with Harps and has also featured in the Republic of Ireland U21 squad in their ongoing qualifying campaign for the 2019 European Championships.

15. Stephen Folan (Galway United to Dundalk)

Stephen Folan Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

One of Galway United’s top performers during a challenging 2017 for the club, the 26-year-old former Newcastle United trainee will hope to establish himself at the heart of Dundalk’s rearguard alongside Brian Gartland.

14. Keith Buckley (Bray Wanderers to Bohemians)

Keith Buckley celebrates after the game Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A fan favourite at Dalymount Park before departing for a season in Bray, Keith Buckley is likely to be a key player for Bohemians in 2018 as the midfielder returns for a second spell at the club for whom he made his senior debut in 2011.

13. Stephen McGuinness (Drogheda United to Cabinteely)

Stephen McGuinness Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Drogheda endured a miserable 2017 and finished at the foot of the Premier Division table, but the 22-year-old goalkeeper could be proud of his personal displays which earned him the club’s player of the year award.

12. Caolan McAleer (Finn Harps to Sligo Rovers)

Michael Barker with Caolan McAleer Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

His discipline will need to improve after he picked up 13 yellow cards and one red card in 2017, but there’s no doubting the 24-year-old former Partick Thistle playmaker’s ability after he impressed in his first season in the League of Ireland.

11. Simon Madden (Shamrock Rovers to St Patrick’s Athletic)

Simon Madden Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The 29-year-old right-back, who was a surprise departure from Shamrock Rovers after four years as a Hoop in what was his second spell with the club, could prove to be a major addition for Pat’s as they aim to avoid another relegation battle.

10. Tobi Adebayo-Rowling (Sligo Rovers to Cork City)

Tobi Adebayo-Rowling Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Now 21, the Londoner — who made his first-team debut for Peterborough United at the age of 18 — is one of several promising options for John Caulfield at right-back, while also giving City an extra possibility in a more advanced role.

9. Dean Jarvis (Derry City to Dundalk)

Dean Jarvis Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Dane Massey’s place at left-back in Stephen Kenny’s side is likely to be under threat following the arrival of the 25-year-old former Aberdeen player, who moves to Oriel Park after a four-and-a-half-year spell with his hometown club.

8. Ryan Brennan (Bray Wanderers to St Patrick’s Athletic)

Ryan Brennan Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The all-round midfielder was arguably Bray’s top performer in 2017, scoring seven league goals as the Seagulls secured another top-half finish, before moving on to join his brother Killian at Richmond Park for this season.

7. Izzy Akinade (Bohemians to Waterford)

Ismahil Akinade Source: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Based purely on his footballing ability, Akinade’s signing is a major coup for Waterford’s top-flight return, after the 24-year-old Nigerian-born striker impressed for Bohemians last season when he returned from illness.

6. Rory Hale (Galway United to Derry City)

Rory Hale Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

On the back of a short stint in Galway, the Ireland U21 international midfielder — who spent four years at Aston Villa — will be tasked with filling the void in the Candystripes’ midfield that stemmed from Barry McNamee’s departure.

5. Aaron Barry (Derry City to Cork City)

Aaron Barry Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

After excelling as a leader in the centre defence for Derry following last March’s tragic passing of Ryan McBride, the former Sheffield United player earned himself a move to the double winners on a two-year deal having spent four seasons on Foyleside.

4. Bastien Hery (Limerick to Waterford)

Bastien Hery Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Hery took a while to settle in the League of Ireland last year but the 25-year-old Frenchman — who came through the ranks at Paris Saint-German — eventually showed his class, with Waterford seeing off competition from several clubs to sign him.

3. Greg Bolger (Cork City to Shamrock Rovers)

Greg Bolger celebrates with The Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 29-year-old midfielder saw his game-time reduced in Cork last season due to the impact made by Conor McCormack, but as Bolger showed when introduced as a substitute in the FAI Cup final, he’s got far too much to offer at this level to be sitting on the bench.

2. Barry McNamee (Derry City to Cork City)

Barry McNamee celebrates his goal Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

A creative midfielder with a wide range of passing and an eye for goal, the 25-year-old began life with his new club on a positive note last Sunday by equalising as City came from two goals down to beat Dundalk 4-2 en route to retaining the President’s Cup.

1. Ronan Murray (Galway United to Dundalk)

inpho_01326452 Source: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Another man who was on the scoresheet in the President’s Cup, the former Ipswich Town striker chipped in with both of Dundalk’s goals in his competitive debut, picking up where he left off last season with Galway United, for whom he netted 17 times.

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Superb second-half comeback sees Cork City claim the President’s Cup

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