Dundalk bring in three players as Mark Connolly departs

Elsewhere, Bohemians have signed 21-year-old midfielder James Clarke on a multi-year contract.

Dundalk's new signing Robbie McCourt.
Dundalk's new signing Robbie McCourt.
Image: Dundalk FC

Updated Jul 27th 2022, 7:25 PM

DUNDALK HAVE ANNOUNCED the permanent signings of Robbie McCourt from Sligo Rovers and Alfie Lewis from Plymouth Argyle, with the Louth side also bringing in Norwegian winger Runar Hauge from Hibernian on loan until the end of the season.

Dubliner McCourt, 24, can operate in defence and midfield and made 37 league appearances for the Bit o’Red over the past 18 months. His arrival comes following the return of Mark Connolly to Dundee United. 

Connolly previously joined Dundalk in January and made an impressive impact during his time at the club, earning the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Ireland Player of the Month award for June. 

The defender filled the void left by centre back Dan Cleary, who signed for St Johnstone in January but has today confirmed his exit from the Scottish club due to ‘family reasons.’

“Firstly, I would like to thank Dan for his service to the club. He arrived during a tough spot and helped us out. Dan will be leaving due to family reasons; I would never stand in the way of someone in that situation,” manager Callum Davidson said.

For Dundalk, McCourt will wear the number 18 shirt at Oriel Park and has told the club that he’s looking forward to linking up with Lilywhites manager Stephen O’Donnell.

“As soon as Stevie gave me the call I wanted to jump into the car and come up straight away,” he said. “I think he tried to get me twice before so hopefully this is third time lucky!

“He’s made it known that he likes me as a player and all you want to hear as a footballer is that you’re going to get a chance under the manager. I’m delighted it’s done and I’m delighted to be here.”

After starting out with St Kevin’s Boys, McCourt moved to West Bromwich Albion as a 15-year-old. He returned to Ireland in 2018 and had spells at Bohemians and Waterford where he played alongside a number of his new teammates.

“As soon as I heard Dundalk wanted me, I started thinking who do I know up there – and I know quite a few,” he said. “I played with Keith Ward, Darragh Leahy and Dano Kelly at Bohs and I played with Sam Bone and John Martin at Waterford.

“You wonder what the dressing room is going to be like at a new club but as soon as I remembered they were all here, I knew there’d be a good spirit. I just want to push on now and get on that training pitch.”

Speaking after McCourt’s arrival, O’Donnell confirmed that the move signals the end of the club’s bid to try and bring Connolly back from Dundee United.

“Mark was brilliant for us and we were great for Mark,” said O’Donnell. “It was a six-month loan but it felt like a lot longer than that because he really immersed himself in the group.

“It’s unfortunate that all parties couldn’t come to an agreement but that’s football. We move on in our direction and Mark will move on his direction.

“We wish him all the best. He was a great person in the dressing room and a brilliant player in his 20 odd games for Dundalk but football moves on and the club moves on and we’re delighted with Robbie’s addition.

“Robbie is a player I’ve always liked and he gives us great strength and balance in the defensive positions.

“He’s a player I should have got after his spell at Waterford and when I saw him go to Sligo and develop again I was thinking, ‘why didn’t I make a move for him’ because he impressed in both spells.”

Twenty-year-old winger Hauge is the younger brother of Jens Petter Hauge who came on as a substitute in Eintracht Frankfurt’s Europa League final win over Rangers in May.

Like his older sibling, Hauge came through the ranks at Bodo/Glimt and made his first-team debut for the Norwegian Eliteserien club as a 16-year-old.

He moved to Scotland in January, making his Hibs bow in a 0-0 draw against Dundee in March. 

“I’m excited and I’m looking forward to getting started,” said Hauge. “I can see that we are still fighting for the title and I want to help the team to try and win the league and the cup. 

“I’m a wide player, a winger, and I love to attack, get in the box and create chances for my teammates. I’m an attacking player so I hope the fans will be excited to watch me.”

Hauge, who can play on either flank, becomes the second Hibs player to join Dundalk on a loan deal this season following Steven Bradley’s arrival in January.

Head coach O’Donnell said of Hauge’s arrival: “He’s dynamic, he’s quick and he has real dynamism and explosiveness. He will give us great variety and a bit more depth on the sides. He has an unbelievable work ethic, is a strong runner and has good feet in one-on-one situations.

“Scandanavians have a brilliant attitude and Runar just wanted to come somewhere where he can play which is a great sign. I don’t think he would have known much about the League of Ireland but he just wants a platform to play games and we can provide that.”

Hauge will wear the number 22 shirt at Oriel Park.

Dundalk’s third signing of the day sees 22-year-old Londoner Lewis link up again with O’Donnell.

Lewis, who spent more than a decade at West Ham United as a youngster, moved to English League One club Plymouth Argyle in January after a successful 2021 season with St Patrick’s Athletic.

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“I had a good year under Stevie at Pat’s and that was one of the key decisions to come here,” Lewis said. 

“I want to play football and get back to playing games and the League of Ireland was a good platform for me to do that last year. ”

Lewis also played alongside Sam Bone, John Mountney and Robbie Benson at Richmond Park and he said their presence at Oriel Park was another big factor in his decision to join the Lilywhites.

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing the lads again,” he said. “They really helped me a lot last year and I’ve no doubt they’ll do it again at Dundalk.”

“I had a really good relationship with Alfie when he came over first and I’ve kept in touch with him ever since to see how he’s been getting on,” O’Donnell adeed.

“It’s something we didn’t foresee coming but a little window opened up and there was an opportunity to get him in so I’m delighted we have got it over the line because he brings real quality to the squad.”

Lewis will wear the number five shirt.

Meanwhile, Bohemians have signed 21-year-old midfielder James Clarke on a multi-year contract. Clarke joins for an undisclosed fee from Drogheda United.

The midfielder, 21, joins from Drogheda United for an undisclosed fee.

Clarke joined Drogheda in 2019 from Shamrock Rovers’ U19s, and has played 21 times for Kevin Doherty’s side this season. Bohemians manager Keith Long said: “James is a fantastic young player, we are really excited to work with him.

“He is a Bohs fan too, so he is delighted to come to the club. He was even a mascot before! He’s had great season so far, has fantastic attributes, brilliant potential and will bring a different dynamic to the team.”

- Updated with details of Runar Hauge’s loan signing, Alfie Lewis signing and Bohemians’ signing of James Clarke.

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