15 new signings that we're excited to watch in the League of Ireland this season

This Friday’s SSE Airtricity League openers can’t come soon enough.

Premier Division

Daniel Mandroiu (Bohemians) 

Daniel Mandroiu Bohs manager Keith Long with Mandroiu (right) and goalkeeper Niall Corbet (left).

From Ballymun on Dublin’s northside, the 20-year-old arrives home after four years at Brighton & Hove Albion. It may take him a little time to settle into senior football, having played U23s for the Seagulls, but manager Keith Long has called the midfielder – who featured in Stephen Kenny’s first game as Ireland U21 manager last week — “an extremely talented young player”.

Daire O’Connor (Cork City)

Dane Massey and Daire OÕConnor Clashing with Dundalk's Dane Massey in the President's Cup. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

A key player for UCD’s title-winning side last season, the 21-year-old winger was named in the PFAI First Division Team of the Year for his exploits. Comfortable on the wing and also in the number 10 role, O’Connor impressed in the President’s Cup defeat to Dundalk last weekend and he could be set for a big debut season at Turner’s Cross. 

David Parkhouse (Derry City)

Sheffield United U18's v Coventry City U18's - National Championship - Final - Bramall Lane Parkhouse (right) joins from Sheffield United. Source: EMPICS Sport

Northern Ireland U21 striker Parkhouse has joined Derry City on a six-month loan deal from Championship club Sheffield United. Labelled “an exciting prospect” by Candystripes manager Declan Devine, he is highly-rated but a lot will depend on how well a largely-new group of players gel over the opening months. 

Sean Murray (Dundalk)

Sean Murray Murray lining out for his new club. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Having played 75 times in the Championship for Watford by the time he was 22, Sean Murray looked destined to make the step up from U21 to senior level for Ireland. However, at 25, the English-born midfielder has ended up at Dundalk after spells with Swindon Town, Colchester United and, most recently, Danish top division side Vejle BK.

He looks a real coup and could help to fill the void left by inspirational captain Stephen O’Donnell. 

Raffaele Cretaro (Finn Harps)

Raffael Cretaro Cretaro recently ended his long association with Sligo Rovers. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

In December, it was announced that Raffaele Cretaro was leaving Sligo Rovers after 17 seasons. However, his statement made no mention of retirement and the Tubbercurry Tornado had every intention to continue playing. The 37-year-old has moved up the N15 to Finn Harps, and still has what it takes to provide an attacking outlet for Ollie Horgan’s side. 

Aaron McEneff (Shamrock Rovers)

Aaron McEneff McEneff at eir Sport's launch this week. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Former Tottenham youth player McEneff has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in the Premier Division over the past couple of years, but a move to Tallaght could potentially allow him to take the next step and become the league’s outstanding player.

At 23, he’s still got time on his side and it will be interesting to see how Stephen Bradley fits an array of midfield talent into his starting line-up. 

Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)

Jack Byrne Rovers Byrne with Hoops boss Stephen Bradley. Source: Twitter/ShamrockRovers

It was only a few years ago that Irish football fans and the media were raving about a technically-gifted young midfielder at Manchester City after high praise from Patrick Vieira and a call-up to train with Martin O’Neill’s senior squad.

After a productive loan spell in Holland, Byrne has had his issues at Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Oldham Athletic and Kilmarnock. The Dubliner is back home and hopefully he can thrive at the Hoops in the same way Graham Burke did last season. 

Ronan Murray (Sligo Rovers)

Ronan Murray Sligo Murray after arrive at the Showgrounds. Source: Twitter/Sligo Rovers

Murray looked a solid signing for Dundalk when he joined from Galway United a year ago. However, the lethal goalscoring form of Patrick Hoban limited him to opportunities with the double-winners and he has moved to Sligo Rovers for a fresh start.

The striker has all the attributes to be a success in this league if Liam Buckley can find the right attacking formula.

Chris Forrester (St Patrick’s Athletic)

Chris Forrester Forrester back in the red and white of Pat's. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Made a name for himself for scoring outrageous goals for St Patrick’s Athletic before being snapped up by Peterborough United in 2015. After establishing himself as club captain in a deeper midfield role, Forrester earned huge praise from Posh manager Graham Westley (who compared him to Michael Carrick) and the Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony.

However, he lost his place in the team while dealing with some “personal issues”, and his recent switch to Aberdeen hasn’t worked out. Saints fans will be over-the-moon to see the crowd favourite back in Inchicore this year. 

Mikey Drennan (St Patrick’s Athletic)

Drennan Miele Pats Drennan and (right) fellow new signing Brandon Miele with manager Harry Kenny. Source: Twitter/stpatsfc

The Saints appear to have signed really well in the close-season and there is a renewed feeling of hope that they can challenge at the top end of the table under new manager Harry Kenny. Pat’s haven’t been able to find a regular goalscorer to fill in for Christy Fagan since his injuries and loss of form, but Mikey Drennan could be the man.

The striker retired from Shamrock Rovers at the age of 23 due to mental health issues, but after rediscovering his love for the game at Evergreen and, last season, Sligo Rovers, the Kilkenny native has looked incredibly sharp in pre-season. 

Richie O’Farrell (UCD)

Richie Farrell UCD Farrell (right) captaining Ireland's U19s. Source:

A recent signing from St Patrick’s Athletic on UCD’s scholarship scheme, the midfielder has hit the ground running in Belfield and looks set to become an important player in Collie O’Neill’s side on their return to the top flight. Captained and scored for Ireland’s U19s in a friendly earlier this month. 

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Zack Elbouzedi (Waterford)

Zack Elbouzedi Elbouzedi with Alan Reynolds. Source: Twitter/WaterfordFCie

The 20-year-old Dubliner spent two years at West Brom before leaving for Scotland to sign for Inverness. Capped for Ireland at U15, U16, U17 and U19 level, the midfielder has agreed to join the Blues and Alan Reynolds, who says: “He’s a player who we think will really excite the fans, he’s quick and likes to attack and that’ll suit us”.

First Division

Dylan McGlade (Bray Wanderers)

Steven Beattie with Dylan McGlade McGlade, facing Cork City's Steven Beattie (left), was excellent for Longford Town last season. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Longford Town star earned a place on the PFAI First Division Team of the Year as well as the Player of the Year shortlist after an excellent 2018. He has since been recruited by newly-relegated Bray Wanderers, who will be looking to bounce straight back up.

Along with the super-experienced Paul Keegan, McGlade could become an integral player for the Seagulls.

Thomas Byrne (Drogheda United)

Michael Duffy and Thomas Byrne Byrne and Dundalk's Michael Duffy (right) during the recent Jim Malone Cup. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Most who have played alongside Thomas Byrne will tell you he is one of the most gifted footballers they have ever come across. He showed flashes of brilliance for St Patrick’s Athletic last term, but the attacker has got a tendency to pick up stupid red cards.

Now back at his hometown club, the 20-year-old needs to get his head down and start realising his potential. 

Ciaran Kilduff (Shelbourne)

Ciaran Kilduff with Kenny Brown Kilduff (left) facing Waterford's Kenny Browne in a pre-season friendly. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Shelbourne are without-a-doubt the team to beat in the First Division this season. Having brought in Ian Morris from Bohemians as their manager, Shels have signed experienced Premier Division players such as Conan Byrne, Dan Byrne and Oscar Brennan.

Ciaran Kilduff fits into that bracket, having won it all and scored in the Europa League group stages with Dundalk. Just back from a spell in America at Jacksonville Armada, the 30-year-old should run riot in the second tier.

Who are you most excited to watch this season? 

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Ben Blake

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