After the news that Liam Miller has joined Cork City, we look at other Irish internationals who may return to these shores to play in our national league. With the list of internationals who could play in the league endless, we stick to players who have previously stated they may play in the league or have a tangible link to a club which makes a return more likely.
Aleady in the League
21 times capped Miller joins Keith Fahey (16 caps), Colin Healy (13 caps) as well as Stephen McPhail (10 caps) as Irish cap holders playing in the League of Ireland. That leaves just two teams with former Irish players, Fahey and McPhail at Shamrock Rovers with Healy and Miller at Cork.
Definitely Will Play
Damien Duff - 100 caps
Duffer has long indicated he would finish his career in Ireland. Currently just a few games in to a one-year deal at Melbourne City, it would likely be next season before Duff is seen in the league. The Ballyboden native grew up not far from Tallaght which makes Shamrock Rovers a natural choice. He counts Pat Devlin as a friend however and shoud the former Bray Wanderers manager find himself in employment again, that particular club may secure the services of Duffer.
I'm absolutely, definitely going to play at home in Ireland."
Potentially Will Play
Clinton Morrison - 36 caps
Currently playing for League Two Exeter on non-contract at the age of 35, Morrison has only recently declared to RTÉ's Soccer Republic he would be open to playing in the league. Having previously played for Long Eaton United, in England's 9th tier and without a contract tying him to Exeter, it's not unfeasible the cult hero could sign for a club in Ireland.
“If a good opportunity came for me to come and play for one of the teams over here, I’d definitely think about it.”
Sean St.Ledger - 37 caps
Ireland's only scorer in Euro 2012 has effectively found himself without a club since May, his short-term deal at Ipswich ending without a minute's playing time. The 30-year-old has said he has his heart set on a move to the MLS, joining Robbie Keane in America's top league. That route would certainly appear more realistic, and would give him a best shot at returning to the international fold. Speaking to The Mirror however, he doesn't rule out playing in Ireland;
"I'm not ruling anything out. Maybe in Ireland I'd be looked at more (by O'Neill) than I would if I played in Afghanistan!
"I've not spoken to Irish clubs, sure they probably wouldn't want me! But it's something I wouldn't rule out.
Kevin Doyle - 61 caps
Doyle spent much of his early career between Irish clubs, developing at Wexford Youths before signing professional terms at St.Pats and finally playing for Cork City before his move across the Irish Sea. While many Irish internationals have developed at League of Ireland clubs, Doyle has a stronger connection to an Irish club than most. The 31-year-old is a friend of Wexford Youths founder Mick Wallace TD, previously urging people to vote for Wallace. He also donated a significant sum to the club to keep them afloat. While that in itself doesn't indicate he will join the Ferrycarrig club, it wouldn't present a massive surprise, particularly if Wexford can find promotion to the Premier Division.
“Mick is a great man, absolutely brilliant for me and all young lads in Wexford and he’s obviously still doing it with Wexford Youths and the amount of effort he puts into the running of that club is unbelievable”
Not Likely to Play
While signing Keane would be the biggest coup for an Irish club in many a year, the prospect would appear unlikely. The Tallaght man has two years left on his contract stateside, by which time he would be 36, putting him in Jason Byrne terriotory. Speaking to The Indo, Keane had said he'd play for free as his love of the game is so strong, as for his plans for when he retires, he indicates his last club will be abroad;
"When I finish playing football, I'll go back to Ireland, I'll be a manager or whatever and I'll still play on Sunday with my mates. It's just the way I am.
Any one of the above players would be a welcome addition to the league and with the league starting to attract some ex-internationals the standard of the league will only grow. This in turn should lead to higher attendance and hopefully, in time, a buoyant, well attended League of Ireland.