The top young Premier Division League of Ireland Talent

Particularly in recent years, the League of Ireland has become flooded with younger talented players to apply their trade across the emerald isle. Here, we have a look at the the most promising young talent at each League of Ireland Premier Division club.

Bohemians – Dawson Devoy

Dawson Devoy in Republic of Ireland u-21 panel | Meath Chronicle

Position: Attacking Midfield.

Devoy has become a real fan-favourite around Dalymout Park since making his first-team debut against UCD back in 2019. The Bohs number 28 is a St. Kevins Boys/Bohemians academy graduate, having played for both their u17 and u19 sides, before making the step up to senior football aged just 17. The young midfielder had an impressive first full-season in senior football in 2020, which resulted in a PFAI Young Player of the Year nomination.

Devoy has had a strong start to the 2021 League of Ireland season, making 13 appearances and netting twice against St. Patrick’s Athletic and Waterford FC. Dawson was rewarded for his fine start to the season with an inclusion in Jim Crawford’s Republic of Ireland u21 squad for their international friendlies against Switzerland, Australia and Denmark which took place last week. However, the Bohs man had to later pull out of the squad before the opening game through injury.

Dawson is yet to test his talent and ability across the Irish sea, but anyone who has watched Devoy live in person will know that it is only a matter of time before the SKB/Bohs academy graduate will get snapped up by a team abroad to test his talents further.

2021 Appearances: 13
2021 Goals: 2

Derry City – Ronan Boyce

Ronan Boyce – Derry Daily

Position: Right-Back/Central-Defensive Midfielder.

Boyce came up through the Derry City academy, playing for their u17 and u19 sides before making the jump to senior football. The youngster made his debut for the Candystripes, coming off the bench against Cork City in 2019, in a 4-0 win. Boyce also made a single appearance for Derry City in the 2020 season, making a late appearance against Shelbourne towards the end of last season.

The 20 year old has had a whirlwind start to his first full season in senior football. The right-back has, incredibly, netted four times in just 12 appearances for his hometown side, with his goals coming against Drogheda Utd, Dundalk, Waterford and St. Patrick’s Athletic respectively. The Candystripes were well aware of his ability and potential, and gave the youngster a 3-and-a-half year contract in May of this year, after only signing his first ever professional contract at the start of this season.

The full-back is sure to become one of the first names on the team-sheet for Ruaidhrí Higgins and will no doubt be a key player for Derry in seasons to come.

2021 appearances: 12
2021 goals: 4

Drogheda United – David Odumosu

Drogheda United stopper David Odumosu targets Republic of Ireland Under-21  call-up ahead of new season

Position: Goalkeeper.

David Odumosu played a vital role in Drogheda United’s promotion to the Premier Division last season, starting in all 18 league games – keeping six clean sheets in the process. Odumosu signed a one-year contract at the beginning of this season after having a breakthrough first season in senior football in 2020. Despite Drogheda United signing the experienced Colin McCabe before the start of the 2021 season, Odumosu has shown to Tim Clancy and his back-room team that he’s well able to hold his own in the Premier Division.

The former Dundalk underage keeper has played nine of Drogheda’s 14 league games so far this campaign – keeping three clean sheets in that time. Many Drogheda fans have been hugely impressed with Odumosu’s maturity and confidence on the pitch since he made his debut against Cobh Ramblers at the beginning of the 2020 season at the age of just 18.

The young shot-stopper has helped Tim Clancy’s side sit in the European spots in the league table heading into the mid-season break, and Drogheda will be hoping Odumosu will play a crucial role in helping the Louth side finish as high up the table as possible come the end of the campaign in October.

2021 Appearances: 9
2021 Clean sheets: 3

Dundalk FC – Ryan O’Kane

O'KANE ON CLOUD NINE - Dundalk Football Club

Position: Right-winger.

At just 17 years of age, O’Kane is the youngest player featured in this piece. The teenager has had a stellar start to his first season in full-time football, signing for his hometown club on a three-year deal back in February of this year. The grandson of former Dundalk FC chairman Tony O’Kane, played for Bellurgan United in the Dundalk Schoolboy’s league before a brief spell in the Irish League with Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville (loan) for the 2019 & 2020 seasons respectively. O’Kane made his first-team debut for Warrenpoint Town at the age of just 15, back in August 2019.

The young winger was a central figure to Filippo Giovagnoli’s pre-season plans, and was the talk-of-the-town with some impressive performances in pre-season against Bohemians and Drogheda United. He has gone on to make six league appearances for the lilywhites this campaign, playing mainly on the right-wing, and starting on one occasion in Dundalk’s 2-1 defeat to current league champions Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium back in April.

Still at the young age of 17 years old, O’Kane certainly has a bright future ahead of him, and still has some years of developing to do. He could possibly become a Dundalk legend if he remains as highly rated as he currently is with the Louth side.

2021 Appearances: 6
2021 Goals: 0

Finn Harps – Stephen Doherty - - Stephen Doherty signs first professional  contract with Finn Harps

Position: Central Midfield.

The centre-midfielder is an academy graduate of the Finn Harps academy, after come up through the ranks of Harps’ u17s & u19 sides. The now 20 year old made his first-team debut for the Donegal club back in 2019 in a EA Sports Cup 2-1 win against Sligo Rovers – which he scored the winning goal in in extra-time. Doherty had a stop-start 2020 season, only making three appearances in a shortened Premier Division campaign, with just one of those being in the starting-eleven.

The midfielder has had a brighter start to the 2021 League of Ireland season, making six appearances in Harps’ opening 14 league games. Ollie Horgan has high ambitions for the youngster, mentioning how “Stephen is a good lad and has been with the club for a few years now and knows what we’re about. Last year we’d a very strong squad and competition for places were tough but that can only stand to him going forward, learning from some of the more experienced lads and plugging away in training”, when speaking to Donegal Daily last December.

Harps legend and academy director Kevin McHugh has also praised Doherty’s patience and talent by adding “He’s a great example of having to bide your time, hold your tongue and work hard”. Doherty has a bright future ahead of him, and will certainly learn from the older-heads in the Finn Harps dressing room – the likes of Barry McNamee, Adam Foley and David Webster.

2021 Appearances: 6
2021 Goals: 0

Longford Town – Callum Thompson

Callum Thompson – Soccer

Position: Right-winger.

Thompson signed a one-year contract with Daire Doyle’s side at the start of the 2021 League of Ireland season, after returning home from Wolverhampton Wanderers last season. He had initially spent the first-half of the 2020 season on loan at Bohemians, before signing for Bray Wanderers when his Wolves contract ended in the summer of 2020, and showcased his talents at the Carlisle Grounds until the end of last season.

The winger has had been impressive on the eye in Longford’s return to the Premier Division, making nine appearances from De Town’s opening 14 games and providing one assist (to Aaron Dobbs in a 4-1 defeat to Drogheda United last month). The 20 year old has blistering pace and an excellent first-touch – which the Longford Town fans are huge admirers of – and, when speaking to the Longford Town social media team at the start of the season, manager Daire Doyle mentioned “Callum is a winger with excellent dribbling and pace. I’m delighted to have him on board for this season and he’ll be a great addition to the squad.”

Thompson has the potential, and ability, to return across the water and showcase his talents further, and no doubt the experience of Daire Doyle will settle him down and develop him further to increase his talent here in the domestic game.

2021 Appearances: 9
2021 Assists: 1

Shamrock Rovers – Dean Williams

Stephen Bradley says young Shamrock Rovers striker Dean Williams reminds  him of Ireland legend Robbie Keane

Position: Centre-forward.

Williams is an academy graduate of the Shamrock Rovers academy, having played with the clubs u17 and u19 sides. He first joined the club back in July 2016 – aged 16. The centre-forward quickly became one of the top names in the underage game during his spell with Rovers underage sides, which eventually saw him make his league debut for the first-team towards the latter stages of the 2018 season in a 5-0 win over Limerick FC.

The following season (2019) was Dean’s big breakthrough season. He spent the first-half of the season on loan at First-Division side Athlone Town, netting eight times in 17 games, before joining Bray Wanderers in the same division for the latter half of the season. Williams incredibly score eight times in just ten games for the Wicklow side. Dean has scored a single goal for Rovers’ first-team, which came in a 5-1 win over Waterford FC in Tallaght last September.

Dean has been the talk of the club for a while now, and although it’s evident he has the talent and ability, he still has to work hard to move up to the pecking order in Stephen Bradley’s squad, with the likes of Aaron Greene and Rory Gaffney the more favourable options for Bradley at the moment.

2021 Appearances: 8
2021 Goals: 0

Sligo Rovers – Johnny Kenny

LOI team news: New-look Waterford host Sligo on RTÉ2

Position: Centre-forward.

2021 has certainly been a busy one for Sligo Rovers Johnny Kenny. He got off to a fantastic start in pre-season, netting four goals in just three games for Liam Buckley’s side. Kenny has begun his Leaving Certificate this week now as a 6th year student, so he has most definitely been kept busy since the turn of the year! The forward is the son of former Sligo Rovers, Finn Harps and Galway United player, Johnny Kenny senior.

The youngster is one of many academy graduate’s of the Sligo Rovers academy, lining out for the Bit o’Red’s u15, u17 & u19 sides all within the last three years. Kenny has only turned 18 this week, and is still eligible to line out for Sligo’s u19 side this season. The centre-forward has become an instant fan-favourite in Sligo, netting twice so far in the 2021 campaign from 13 appearances – against Finn Harps and Drogheda United.

Kenny has the backing of Sligo Town behind him, and will learn from some of the more experienced heads in the Sligo Rovers dressing room. Still at the young age of only 18, the forward will no doubt have a bright future ahead of him at The Showgrounds.

2021 Appearances: 13
2021 Goals: 2

St. Patrick’s Athletic – Darragh Burns

Darragh Burns hits the winner as Saints claim U19 League of Ireland crown

Position: Right-winger.

Burns joined the St. Patrick’s Athletic’s academy in 2018, and has since gone on to graduate into Stephen O’Donnell’s first-team. The youngster, who is capped at underage level by both the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland, made his debut for the St.Pats first-team in a glamour mid-season friendly against Chelsea FC in 2020. The young winger made a further six appearances, all from the substitutes bench, in the latter half of the 2020 league season.

Burns has had an impressive start to his 2021 league campaign with the Inchicore side. Despite only making six appearances so far this season, the winger has netted twice in home wins over Waterford FC and Finn Harps, respectively. Burns has declared for Northern Ireland, and has most recently lined out for their u19 side.

With blistering pace and a wand of a right-foot, Burns will no doubt be a regular in the St. Pats side for years to come, and will most definitely have a bright future, both domestically and internationally.

2021 Appearances: 6
2021 Goals: 2

Waterford FC – Darragh Power

LOI's new kids on the block: 21 under 21 for 2021

Position: Right-back.

Darragh Power is an academy graduate of the Waterford FC academy, having played for The Blues’ u17 and u19 sides since 2017. The right-back made his debut for the Munster club in a 2-0 win over Sligo Rovers towards the end of the 2018 league season. Power made a single league appearance for The Blues in the 2019 season before making a further eight league appearances in 2019, as well as a further two appearances in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup.

Darragh has become a mainstay in the Waterford defence this season, making 11 starts in 14 for Marc Bircham’s side. The fans of the RSC have raved about Power’s ability and composure on the ball, and are delighted that one of their own is now one of the first names on the team-sheet for The Blues. Despite his young age, he has become one of the more experienced players in the Waterford defence and has learned and developed greatly with the experience of Brian Murphy behind him.

Now only 20 years of age, Power still has some more years of developing to do but under the guidance of Mark Bircham and continuing to play week-in week-out, Waterford certainly have a talent on their hands that they will hope they can keep before he catches the attention of team’s from across the Irish Sea.

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