Ross Tierney (file pic). Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO
High hopes

4 League of Ireland players who moved across the water in 2021 and 4 who could follow

Ross Tierney and others who have signed, or could sign, for British clubs.

4 who moved

Ross Tierney

After a strong season in which he scored seven Premier Division goals and also was capped by Ireland at U21 level, Tierney sealed a move to Scottish Premiership side Motherwell. After the signing was announced, manager Graham Alexander hailed the 20-year-old Dubliner: “He is an exciting young player who will come in and enhance our firepower and our quality.”

Evan Ferguson

Also linked with Liverpool, Ferguson officially joined Brighton from Bohemians last January, having already made a handful of senior appearances for the Irish club. His progress has continued steadily since his move to England. Still only 17, he has already made several Ireland U21 appearances. He made his senior debut for the Seagulls in a 2-0 League Cup win over Cardiff last August and also recently made the bench for a Premier League fixture.

Liam Scales

As a youngster at UCD, Scales was more than once linked with a move to Britain, with Man City and Bristol Rovers both reportedly interested. He eventually signed for Shamrock Rovers last year, swiftly becoming a first-team regular there. A versatile player who can play centre-back, full-back or wing-back, the 23-year-old joined Celtic last August after a series of impressive displays in the Premier Division. He is not yet a regular starter for Ange Postecoglou’s side, but has made a number of appearances mainly off the bench and came on as a substitute in their recent Scottish Cup final win over Hibernian.

Jordan Gibson

Gibson had an impressive first half of the season with Sligo, scoring seven goals for Liam Buckley’s side, who in the early stages of the campaign, looked like they might challenge for the title. However, they struggled to replicate their promising early form in the second half of the season, and the slump was partially due to the 23-year-old Englishman’s departure, as the winger joined Carlisle United in August, and has since established himself as a regular for the League Two club.

4 who could follow

Johnny Kenny

johnny-kenny-celebrates-scoring-his-second-goal Johnny Kenny celebrates scoring for Sligo. Evan Logan / INPHO Evan Logan / INPHO / INPHO

One of the most highly-rated youngsters in Irish football, Kenny was a revelation for Sligo in 2021, finishing the season as one of the Premier Division’s top scorers with 12 goals. Celtic are one of the clubs that have been linked with a move for Kenny, and the 18-year-old signed a new contract with the Bit O’Red last November, but that is unlikely to deter suitors, with manager Liam Buckley subsequently admitting that there are “loads” of clauses in the teenager’s recently signed deal.

Darragh Burns

The 19-year-old winger looked hugely impressive for St Patrick’s Athletic at times this season, scoring five goals in the Premier Division, while helping the Richmond Park outfit finish second in the table and also to triumph in the FAI Cup final. According to the Irish Independent, Scottish top-flight side Hibernian have targeted the youngster.

Colm Whelan

The Ireland U21 international lit up the First Division in 2021, finishing the campaign as the league’s top scorer with 18 goals. He was ultimately key to UCD’s promotion to the top flight, as he was on target in a 2-1 win during the promotion-relegation decider against Waterford. The Students’ boss Andy Myler recently said that both Whelan and teammate Liam Kerrigan are “easily good enough” to play beyond the League of Ireland. However, any move is unlikely to come in January, as the 21-year-old won’t be finished his college degree until the summer.

Killian Phillips

The 19-year-old midfielder only officially joined the Drogheda first team in January 2021 but didn’t take long to adapt to the demands of senior football. He went on to feature regularly for the newly-promoted side, as they finished an impressive seventh in their first season back in the top flight, with Phillips swiftly establishing himself as one of the standout young players in the division. Crystal Palace are one club that have been linked with the player’s signature, and the teenager was recently spotted at Selhurst Park during one of the Eagles’ Premier League games.

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