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10 League of Ireland players the scouts will be keeping an eye on in 2017

Don’t be surprised to see these lads attracting attention from abroad during this SSE Airtricity League season.

Chiedozie Ogbene (Limerick)

Chiedozie Ogbene Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Limerick’s signing of Ogbene from Cork City could prove to be the best piece of business conducted by any SSE Airtricity League club during the off-season. Fans on Leeside weren’t happy about losing the 19-year-old, who can play on the wing or up front. Ogbene has already been on target for the newly-promoted Blues during pre-season, scoring in three of their friendly games and against Cobh Ramblers in the Munster Senior Cup. Born in Nigeria but raised in Cork, Ogbene starred for City in their Uefa Youth League games against AS Roma and HJK Helsinki last season. He was also introduced as a substitute in the FAI Cup final win against Dundalk in November.

Dylan Connolly (Bray Wanderers)

Dylan Connolly celebrates after the game Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Connolly had been courted by Dundalk as a replacement for Daryl Horgan, but the 21-year-old winger opted to commit to Bray Wanderers by signing a new two-year contract in December. Connolly made a huge contribution for the Seagulls during their resurgence after the summer break in 2016, as they lost just twice in their final 19 games to finish in the top half of the table. If he can reproduce that form this year, he could have options for another move to England after a 2015 spell with Ipswich Town didn’t work out.

Ismahil Akinade (Bohemians)

Ismahil Akinade Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With a largely inexperienced squad, it won’t come as much of a surprise if Bohemians have a difficult 2017. However, Akinade will have an important role to play in ensuring that the Gypsies steer clear of what’s set to be a hotly-contested relegation battle. The physically-imposing Nigerian-born striker, who turned 23 earlier this month, signed a new deal with Bohs in spite of attention from other Irish clubs. His 2016 season was disrupted by illness, but there could be options outside the SSE Airtricity League if Akinade fulfils his potential this year, although his finishing can still improve.

Jonathan Lunney (St Patrick’s Athletic)

Ian Turner and Jonathan Lunney Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He has only just turned 19, but this is a big season for Jonathan Lunney. After two years at Preston North End, he returned to Ireland last year to join St Patrick’s Athletic. A midfielder who looks extremely comfortable on the ball, Lunney broke into the Pat’s team at the end of last season and scored a superb goal against Dundalk in October. The Irish underage international appears to possess the attributes to make a big impact on the Premier Division this season.

Joshua Daniels (Derry City)

Joshua Daniels celebrates scoring Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

The Derry native enjoyed a fine season in 2016. Despite just turning 21 yesterday, this will be Daniels’ fifth League of Ireland campaign. The attacking midfielder, who has represented Northern Ireland at U19 level, made 20 league appearances last year as the Candystripes finished third in the Premier Division. Daniels has previously been on trial at Manchester United, Everton and Nottingham Forest.

Patrick McEleney (Dundalk)

Patrick McEleney Source: Mikhail Kireev/INPHO

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny rates McEleney highly: “There hasn’t been a player like him — talent wise or as good as him — in the league for the past 15 years.” The Lilywhites need someone to fill the attacking void left by the departures of Daryl Horgan and Ronan Finn. McEleney is likely to be the most suitable candidate. The 24-year-old offensive midfielder, who joined Dundalk from Derry City last season, has represented the Republic of Ireland at underage level.

Ronan Murray (Galway United)

Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - Notts County v CA Osasuna - Meadow Lane Source: EMPICS Sport

Although he has just returned from England, a positive showing in 2017 is likely to generate more interest in Murray from across the water. The Mayo native joined the Ipswich Town academy at the age of 15 and scored on his first-team debut when he was a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday. Murray moved to Notts County in 2013 and, after three seasons there, he departed when his contract expired last summer. The former Ireland U21 striker endured some injury problems at Notts County but netted 14 times in 68 appearances. Now 25, Murray is still capable of scoring goals at a decent level on either side of the Irish Sea and his signing was a significant coup for new Galway United manager Shane Keegan.

Ryan Connolly (Shamrock Rovers)

Ryan Connolly Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The likes of Ronan Finn and Graham Burke have made the headlines, but Connolly might be the most astute signing that Stephen Bradley made during the off-season. The Mayo midfielder, who played once for Derby County after coming through their academy, joined Rovers following three impressive seasons with Galway United. The energetic former Irish underage international captained the Tribesmen in 2016 and has arguably been the most under-appreciated player in the SSE Airtricity League in recent seasons.

Sean Maguire (Cork City)

Sean Maguire celebrates with The FAI Cup Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Having ended his first season with Cork City as the League of Ireland’s top goalscorer, Maguire picked up where he left off in 2016 by netting in last weekend’s 3-0 President’s Cup win over his former club Dundalk. The most coveted player in the League of Ireland, the former West Ham striker gave John Caulfield’s side a massive boost by committing for 2017. Should that form continue this year, the 22-year-old Kilkenny native is likely to be back in England before long.

Tobi Adebayo-Rowling (Sligo Rovers)

Tobi Adebayo-Rowling Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The 20-year-old full-back was a major find for Sligo last season. Having played under current Sligo boss Dave Robertson at Peterborough United, Adebayo-Rowling made the move to the west of Ireland in 2016 and ended the campaign by being voted the club’s Young Player of the Year. The Londoner has reportedly been attracting interest from Crystal Palace and Sunderland.

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Paul Dollery

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