Football

21 Under 21 - The Best League Of Ireland Players Under 21 Years Of Age

21 Under 21 - The Best League Of Ireland Players Under 21 Years Of Age

The League of Ireland has established itself as the hotbed for upcoming Republic of Ireland internationals, and with new transfer regulations imposed by Brexit, it is set to take an even greater importance in the coming years.

Seamus Coleman, James McClean, Shane Long, Kevin Long, Daryl Horgan, Jack Byrne, Jamie McGrath and Ryan Manning have all come through the league, with talent bursting at the seams in both the Premier and First Division.

And with so many starting to make their mark in the professional ranks within the League of Ireland, we have decided to take a look at the best young players in the league aged 20 or under.

1. Dawson Devoy, Bohemians

Age: 19

Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

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Devoy is one of the most impressive young talents of his generation, and it will be no surprise to any watching him now, or before, that he is on such a upward trajectory in his career.

The 19-year-old dusted himself off after a short-lived stint in England with Watford to establish himself as arguably the most talented youngster in the league.

It is a further sign that the production line at Bohemians and St Kevin’s Boys is exploding with special talents.

He is far from the finished article, however. But the Ashbourne teen is a player who looks set to make his move away sooner rather than later, no matter how hard Bohs try to keep hold of their young star.

2. Darragh Burns, St Patrick's Athletic

Age: 18

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Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

While plenty of attention is going the way of the Bohemians and St Kevin’s Boys’ academy link-up, one academy that is also thriving and bursting at the seams is St Patrick’s Athletic’ underage system.

Their success in recent seasons has seen a number of young players emerge, and Darragh Burns is the latest to do so.

Burns is starting to make a position in the Saints' starting XI his own, and has scored twice for Stephen O’Donnell’s charges in just his first year of regular senior football. One to watch.

3. Johnny Kenny, Sligo Rovers

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Age: 18

Position: Striker

League of Ireland

Just after completing his Leaving Cert, Sligo Rovers’ Johnny Kenny is establishing himself as one of the most impressive marksmen in Irish football.

Kenny has scored many pivotal goals already this season for a Sligo side who are still well in the title race, alongside Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic, despite his tender age of 18.

Goalscorers are hard to come by at the best of times, and the 18-year-old’s lethal eye for the net means that he is one to watch in a league that often has a dearth of the craved 20 goal a season hitman.

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4. Ross Tierney, Bohemians

Club: Bohemians

Age: 20

Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

Tierney grew up in the same St Kevin’s side as Dawson Devoy, and he too is impressing suitably as Keith Long’s young revolution at Dalymount Park gathers apace.

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The Ballymun man scored on his Ireland U21 debut, and has undoubtedly earned himself plenty of suitors away from home in the process.

Like Devoy, the 20-year-old is another who Bohs may eventually lose to bigger and better things. But that should not stop the Gypsies enjoying his talents while they last at Dalymount.

5. David Odumosu, Drogheda United

Age: 20

Position: Goalkeeper

League of Ireland

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Drogheda United’s David Odumosu joined the Boynesiders ahead of the start of the 2020 season from local rivals Dundalk, and he has suitably impressed while at Head in the Game Park.

The physically imposing keeper has been an integral part of Tim Clancy’s charges’ rise this season, as he was last year, with the Drogs easing their relegation fears with a superb start to the season.

Odumosu is a novice (age wise) in terms of goalkeeping, but he performs as if he is a lot older than he truly is. The world is Odumosu’s oyster should he be able to grab his great opportunity.

6. Brian Maher, Bray Wanderers

Age: 20

Position: Goalkeeper

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League of Ireland

Another goalkeeper on this list, Ireland U21 shot-stopper Brian Maher is becoming one of the most highly-rated keepers in the League of Ireland despite his young age.

Formerly on the books of St Patrick’s Athletic, the 20-year-old joined Bray on a permanent transfer midway through last season after an initial loan.

He has already racked up eight clean sheets for the Seagulls so far this season out of a possible 16, and if the Seagulls can’t achieve their aim of promotion this season, it might be the case that Maher moves on to pastures new in the top-flight.

7. Ben McCormack, St Patrick's Athletic

Age: 18

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Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

Like Burns, Ben McCormack is a very highly-rated prospect at Richmond Park, so much so that he has already put pen to paper on a long-term professional contract at the club.

The 18-year-old has also impressed for O’Donnell’s side this season when given the opportunity to do so.

While he has only made two starts so far this season - 13 appearances have come off the bench - his manager is showing no fear of throwing him in at the deep end of a Premier Division title race.

8. Darragh Power, Waterford

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Age: 20

Position: Defender

League of Ireland

Waterford’s resurgence under new boss Marc Bircham has been remarkable, but even before Bircham’s arrival at the RSC, Darragh Power was already impressing.

The 20-year-old has been touted as one of the most impressive young players to come through the Blues' underage system, and he was also a part of the the club's under-19 side that won the National League crown in 2019.

Power has almost been an ever-present for Waterford this season, and he will be hoping that he can continue his development in the coming months at the RSC as the Blues look to claw their way out of a relegation dogfight.

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9. Killlian Phillips, Drogheda United

Age: 19

Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

Drogheda United have enjoyed a superb start to life back in the top-flight, and one man who is quietly impressing this season is midfielder Killian Phillips.

The former Drogs under-19 star can still play at U19 level, but he has impressed so much this season a return to that level does not appear on the cards.

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Once of St Kevin's Boys and Kilbarrack United, the versatile midfielder who can also play centre-back has played more than 15 times for Tim Clancy's charges so far this season.

And who's to say he can't make more appearances between now and the end of the season at Head in the Game Park?

10. Darragh Nugent, Shamrock Rovers (on loan at Longford Town)

Age: 20

Position: Midfielder

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A midfielder by trade, Darragh Nugent is a highly-rated prospect at Tallaght Stadium, and his latest move to Longford Town, albeit on loan, has shown an initiative on his part.

A powerful player, Nugent has already impressed in the Midlands, and with more gametime, he is only going to improve.

At 20, the Hoops loanee will no doubt be hoping to become more of a permanent fixture in Rovers’ first-team should he return, but he is certainly one to watch, even this season.

11. Brandon Kavanagh, Shamrock Rovers

Age: 20

Position: Midfielder

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League of Ireland

Brandon Kavanagh is arguably in the bracket of unlucky player' on this list, somehow. Unable to break into the Shamrock Rovers first-team XI, the 20-year-old has been forced to go out on loan to rack up more first-team minutes despite his obvious quality.

Kavanagh was a nominee in the PFAI’s First Division Player of the Year last season after his exploits with Shamrock Rovers II. And thus far, he has continued that form with Bray Wanderers on loan this season.

On his day, the former St Joseph’s Boys schoolboy looks a cut above the level he plays at, but consistency is often lacking. But that will come with experience.

12. Sean Brennan, UCD

Age: 20

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Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

Sean Brennan has long been touted as one of the most technically gifted players that of his age group, and he is starting to find his feet in senior football after a spell in the UK with Southampton.

The former Belvedere schoolboy has been a regular fixture in the Students’ starting XI as they look to cement a playoff position.

The 20-year-old is studying in UCD at the moment, and he only has to look at how the likes of Gary O’Neill have fared there to know that if he continues to impress, a big move will come sooner rather than later.

13. Seamas Keogh, Sligo Rovers

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Age: 19

Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

Formerly of Southampton, Seamas Keogh has made his return home to Sligo Rovers, and he will be hoping to make his opportunity count at the Bit O'Red.

The 19-year-old was previously on the books of the club before making his cross-channel switch, and has since gone on to make numerous Ireland underage appearances.

And under Liam Buckley, a manager famed for his expansive and attacking football, Keogh has all the attributes to succeed.

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14. Evan Weir, UCD

Age: 17

Position: Defender

League of Ireland

A man who possesses a wicked left foot, UCD’s Evan Weir is yet another exciting talent to come from the Students’ ever-exploding conveyor belt of talent.

The 2020 season was just his first in senior football, and he quickly established himself as one of UCD’s defensive mainstays.

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Weir is set to remain at the UCD Bowl for a couple of seasons as he heads into college, and should he continue to develop at the rate he has already, he has all the chances in the world to go as far as he wants to.

15. Brian McManus, Shelbourne

Age: 19

Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

An Ireland underage international, Brian McManus is starting to relaunch his career back home following his spell in England with Preston North End.

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McManus returned home last summer to join forces with the Reds who were then in the Premier Division, although he could not help them preserve their top-flight status.

But the 19-year-old is quietly impressing under Ian Morris’ stewardship at Tolka Park, although he has been forced to bide his time for a starting place this season, being limited to a number of appearances off the bench.

16. Evan McLaughlin, Derry City

Age: 19

Position: Midfielder

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One of many coming through the ranks at Derry City under new boss Ruaidhri Higgins, Evan McLaughlin is already beginning to turn heads with some assured performances in the middle of the park for the Candystripes.

McLaughlin only made his senior League of Ireland debut at the start of July against Waterford, and scored on his debut, before making two more bows that month for City.

The 19-year-old is not far off reaching the level required to be a guaranteed starter at Premier Division level. And for a player to be there already no more than a month after making his senior League of Ireland debut, he is certainly one to keep a close eye on.

17. Matthew O'Brien, Longford Town

Age: 17

Position: Midfielder

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League of Ireland

Talking of players going under the radar, Longford Town’s Matthew O’Brien is doing just that at 17 years of age.

The former Phoenix FC schoolboy was perhaps unfortunate not to have made the move to the UK previously, but he has been getting some much-needed senior minutes for Longford since the start of the 2020 season, which is probably just as good.

O’Brien is still in school, although, he has still impressed when called upon by Longford boss Daire Doyle in a midfield two or three.

It is expected that he will make more appearances before the season is out as De Town look to claw their way out of the automatic relegation position.

18. Alex Murphy, Galway United

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Age: 16

Position: Defender

Unbeknownst to many outside of First Division circles, Galway United full-back Alex Murphy is already proving to be one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Corribside in a few years.

The Tribesmen do have pedigree in producing future Irish internationals – Ryan Manning is one – and they look to have one in waiting in Murphy. He is already turning heads since making his senior competitive debut last month against Athlone Town.

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While only 16, it is understood that the former Corrib Celtic is already piquing the interest of several Premier League clubs. A big season or two awaits the young Tribesman.

19. Jamie Mullins, Bohemians

Age: 16

Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

Having become Bohemians’ youngest ever senior goalscorer at 16 years and 101 days, Jamie Mullins is the latest player to come off the St Kevin’s-Bohemians academy system.

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Mullins has been involved with Bohs matchday squads this season on a number of occasions already, and if he continues to play at the level he showed he can play at in the last few weeks, it won’t just be the squads he’s making.

20. Ryan O'Kane, Dundalk

Age: 17

Position: Midfielder

League of Ireland

Another player who is arguably the victim of being involved in a very strong squad, Ryan O’Kane is a teasing prospect at Oriel Park who is likely to enjoy a good footballing career wherever he ends up.

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The Dundalk native is a protégé of current Dundalk academy manager Stephen McDonnell, with McDonnell giving O’Kane his first-team debut with Warrenpoint Town in the Northern Irish top-flight as a 15-year-old in August 2019.

He is tied down to a three-year professional contract at Oriel, and while it may take time for him to nail down his position in their first-team, it might not be as far away as we may think.

21. Kyle Robinson, St Patrick's Athletic (on loan at Wexford)

Age: 19

Position: Striker

League of Ireland

Another to come through St Patrick’s Athletic underage set-up, Kyle Robinson is hitting form for a resurgent at the foot of the First Division table.

Robinson is a quick and physically imposing forward, with his six goals underlining his importance to Ian Ryan’s charges.

The teenage striker may not be ready to make the grade at Premier Division level with the Saints just yet, but if he continues his current run of form, he will surely force his way into O’Donnell’s plans sooner rather than later.

SEE ALSO: The Boy Devoy - The Rise And Rise Of Dawson Devoy

Andrew Dempsey

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