As ever, excitement is starting to build among the respective fan bases within the League of Ireland as yet another summer of transfer sagas and dramas approaches. Even a global event on the scale of the World Cup has not been able to quash the speculation of some high-profile summer moves for the likes of UCD’s Georgie Kelly and a potential return to the Greatest League in the World for Patrick McEleney, however, our reporter Kieran Burke has decided to look back on some of the most shocking and headline grabbing LOI transfers from years gone by. Have you got a transfer saga favorite not listed below? Tweet us @LOIDOTIE.
Neale Fenn – Dundalk to Shamrock Rovers.
Signed by Dundalk boss Ian Foster in February of 2010, striker Neale Fenn had become an integral part of the “Lilywhites” set-up, following his release by Bohemians, and was even appointed as vice-captain at the County Louth club.
However, with the famous old provincial club struggling to make much of an impact in the Premier Division that season, former Irish underage international Fenn decided to retire during the mid-season break and focus on his family commitments. Manager Ian Foster accepted Fenn’s choice on the basis he would not stand in the way of any players family commitments and soon found a replacement in Matthew Tipton.
The story did not end there though, just three days after leaving Dundalk for an early retirement, Fenn was contacted by Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O’Neill and ended up signing for the Tallaght club to the sheer disbelief and understandable anger of everyone involved with Dundalk FC.
“The events that followed (Fenn’s retirment) are totally unacceptable,” said Dundalk manager, Ian Foster. “I am saddened that a man who was so integral to our season would act in such a callous manner. He has been disrespectful to his team-mates, myself, directors and supporters of Dundalk FC.
“His actions go against the spirit of the sport. At Dundalk FC we always try to do things the right way, in the right manner and with integrity. I do not believe that others have acted in the same way.
“I believe that the Footballers union, the PFAI should publicly condemn his actions and the precedent that it may set in our sport.”
However, Fenn would see out the season with a Shamrock Rovers side that would go on to claim a first league title in seventeen-years and finish as runners-up in the first ever FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, losing on penalties to Sligo. Ironically, on Fenn’s return to Oriel Park, his former employers trounced the Dublin club 5-1, with Fenn’s replacement Matty Tipton bagging a famous hat-trick to give birth to the Shedside Army’s “I’d rather have a Tipton than a Fenn” chant.
This must surely go down as one of the most bitter and dramatic transfer sagas in LOI history and Dundalk FC supporters will be watching closely to see if current Longford Town manager Fenn will be bringing his side to Oriel Park next year, as the Midlanders continue to show impressive form in the First Division this season.
Luke Byrne – Bohemians to Shamrock Rovers
No matter what league, no matter what player, whenever a move from one bitter rival to another takes place there is going to be one almighty reaction that certainly needs no added fuel to the fire. However, Luke Byrne’s snapchat, or more accurately an untrustworthy friend, ensured Bohemians fans will never forgive the youngster as he signed for Shamrock Rovers.
It always hurts to lose a player to your arch rivals but that pain is compounded when there’s a sense that this talented youngster is one of your own so to speak as Luke Byrne had come through the “A” championship set-up with Bohemians before making his first-team debut under Aaron Callaghan in 2012. For many young players just breaking into the first-team set-up at a club like “Bohs” would be rewarding enough by Byrne was gifted the opportunity to play European football with the “Gypsies” and earned underage Ireland recognition as a result. Signing a new contract for the 2013 campaign, in which Byrne made over thirty-appearances, it was clear Bohemians had a talent on their hands.
That’s when Shamrock Rovers came calling. To cut a long story short, Byrne put pen-to-paper with Rovers boss Trevor Croly, who ironically is now Keith Long’s number two at Dalymount Park, but it was Byrne’s soon to be infamous leaked Snapchat that would cause more drama than the move itself.
Following Byrne’s move to the Tallaght Stadium, the expected tag of “money grabber” had begun to be thrown around on social media by frustrated Bohemians fans and seemingly in a reaction to that, Byrne was pictured with a handful of Monopoly money with the caption “F*ck Bohs I follow the money.” Designed in jest for a small group of friends, Byrne’s villain like status around Dalymount Park was confirmed forever more as soon as the Image was leaked and shared all across social media.
Ronan Finn – Dundalk to Shamrock Rovers
Similarly to Byrne, Ronan Finn knows what it’s like to be accused of chasing the dollar by disgruntled fans who once adored him. A key member of Stephen Kenny’s iconic Dundalk side of 2016, who of course went on that famous Eurpean run all the way to the Europa League Group Stages, nobody could have seen Finn’s decision coming to return to the club where he was previously deemed surplus to requirements.
Gifted the captain’s armband upon his return by Stephen Bradley, Finn has failed to reach the heights he had experienced under Stephen Kenny and has already been on the end of some humiliating results at the hands of his former employers.
“And he won’t be winning trophies anymore” is a line out of the subsequent chant designed by Dundalk FC supporters to let Finn know what they made of the midfielder’s decision to part ways with their club and so far, they’ve been proven right with Dundalk humilating Rovers 3-0 in the “Hoops” own backyard in last season’s EA Sports Cup final.
Enda Curran – Salthill Devon to Athlone Town
They say football is all about timing and been in the right place at the right time. That was most certainly the case for Athlone Town boss, Roddy Collins in 2013 as the former double winner at Bohemians managed to sneak in ahead of title rivals Longford in order to secure the services of goal-poacher, Enda Curran.
Galway native Curran had been impressing as a youngster on the books of Salthill Devon and his ability to score goals despite playing in one of the divisions weakest teams. It became clear from quite early on that summer that the winner of this transfer duel would most likely go on to win the First Division.
Given the local tensions and the importance of the deal, this transfer saga needed no added spice but Curran was determined to throw his hat into the ring and seemed to declare he had as good as signed for Longford on social media.
However, with unpopular Longford boss Tony Cousins stalling over a potential deal, Curran upped sticks and changed camps, signing for the Blue and Black of Athlone Town. As expected, Curran’s goals helped ensure Collins men would finish the job as Athlone Town returned to the top-flight for the first time in almost two decades, overturning a twelve-point deficit on old foes Longford in the process.
Ironically, Curran would eventually put on the Red and Black of Longford four-years later but the former Galway United striker failed to deliver on his past potential, which has now long passed with the striker now operating in the unglamorous surroundings of Junior football with Mervue. Guiding Athlone to a title and flopping under Alan Mathews in 2017 has ensured Enda Curran will never receive a free-meal in Longford Town.
Simon Madden – Shamrock Rovers to St.Patrick‘s Athletic
The most recent of our transfer sagas as former Rovers captain, Simon Madden was shown the Tallaght Stadium exit door by Stephen Bradley. Having made over one-hundred-and-fifty appearances over the course of two spells with the “Hoops”, Madden was regarded by many as one of the league’s top full-backs, having also stared for the likes of Dundalk and Derry City in the past.
However, in a line of thinking still incomprehensible to this day, under-fire Rovers boss Bradley decided Madden’s time was up and that a player relegated with Finn Harps was the answer. Ethan Boyle was not only signed by Bradley but at a transfer cost, believed to be in the region of €8,000, and quite simply the full-back has been woeful for Rovers this season.
Meanwhile, Simon Maddenn has slotted into life with ease at Rovers Dublin rivals, St.Pat’s, and despite a poor run of form for Liam Buckley’s “Saints” of late, they still stand every chance of pipping none other than Rovers to a European place. What an example of revenge been served cold would that be!
Kieran Burke – @KieranBTS