5 players to watch in the Premier Division in 2020

Sun, Dec 29 2019

Luke McNally poses after he scored a hat-trick in Drogheda's play-off win over Cabinteely. Credit: Larry McQuillan (ETPhotos)

Whisper it quietly, but we are not too far away from the return of League of Ireland football after what seems like the longest of long breaks.

Can Dundalk maintain their stranglehold on the Premier Division title? Or will Shamrock Rovers storm to their first top-flight crown since 2011?

Notwithstanding the chasing pack – St Patrick’s Athletic, Derry City and Bohemians have all done some shrewd transfer business during the off-season.

What can we expect? Who knows really? But here’s a list of five players one can expect a thing or two off of in 2020.

Danny Grant (Bohemians)

Certainly not an unknown – Danny Grant has shown many glimpses of his exciting talent previously with Bohemians, as emphasised by his recent call-up to Stephen Kenny’s under-21 squad.

Making his debut in February 2018 in the 5-1 EA Sports Cup hammering of First Division Cabinteely, Grant has since gone on to make 42 further appearances for the Gypsies.

As Europa League football beckons at Dalymount Park, the exciting 19-year-old can look to once again push on in 2020 – having made ten more starts in 2019 than he did in his maiden year of first-team football in 2018.

Brandon Kavanagh (Shamrock Rovers)

Crowned as the Hoops Young Player of the Year for 2019, coupled with an impressive showing for the Republic of Ireland’s under-19s in the European Championships in Armenia, Brandon Kavanagh has the world at his feet.

With a plethora of midfield talent available to Stephen Bradley at Tallaght Stadium, 19-year-old Kavanagh has impressed suitably, earning himself plenty of admirers as regards to his undoubted potential.

While he only made six league starts in 2019 – the same as his 2018 total – the former St Joseph’s Boys schoolboy can look to making an even larger imprint on the Hoops starting XI in 2020.

Walter Figueira (Derry City)

The former Chelsea academy product joined Premier Division Waterford with many question marks as regards to his potential, but he dispelled a number of those scepticisms with a fast start to life at the RSC.

Netting twice against his new employers Derry City on his debut for the Blues, Figueira left enough of a mark on the Candystripes to encourage Declan Devine to tempt the 24-year-old to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.

Goals soon dried up for the fight-footed forward in a barren run of form for Waterford, but Figueira has shown glimpses of his quality already.

With a host of quality and confidence behind him, 2020 could be the year in which he can stake his claim as one of the League of Ireland’s most prolific forwards.

Charlie Fleming (Cork City)

Having impressed in the First Division with Cobh Ramblers over the previous few years and making 50 league appearances for the club – Charlie Fleming has earned himself a move to the top-flight.

City boss Neale Fenn is well-versed in the strengths of Fleming having faced the 21-year-old on a number of occasions during his time in charge of Longford Town – six times to be exact.

The Leesiders appear to be taking a more youth-minded approach regarding their recruitment and the acquisition of Fleming is a key indicator of this.

How he will adapt to the rigours of the Premier Division remains to be seen, but if he continues to develop in a similar manner, Cork can expect to call on him heavily next term.

Luke McNally (St Patrick’s Athletic)

With nine goals to his name in the 2019 First Division, one may be forgiven for thinking that St Patrick’s Athletic defender Luke McNally was a striker. But that, he is not.

While he has goals, he also has a defensive maturity that proved to be a key part of Drogheda United’s ultimately unsuccessful yet heart-breaking promotion tilt of 2019.

While on loan at United Park from the Saints, McNally turned heads with his performances in the second tier.

And with a revolution of sorts taking place under Stephen O’Donnell at Richmond Park, the 20-year-old can certainly show that he has what it takes to flourish in the Premier Division.