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League of Ireland First Division Five to Watch in 2024

For those who do know me, my name is Bill, and I’m the founder and owner of the Irish Football Blog and “Owner” of the Republic of Ireland Player Tracker. Football in Ireland is well and truly on the rise, and if you haven’t joined the revolution already, I suggest you do it, and you do it quickly.

The League of Ireland has quickly become one of the hottest and most undervalued football talent factories globally. You might be familiar with talents like Ferguson, and Ogbene, but there’s plenty more where that comes from.

To put it short, I’m obsessed with football, but specifically Irish football, and I’m advancing everything I can with it, from our domestic league, and national team to scouting the latest “granny ruler” and so much more. The obsession consumes everything about me as a person.

With the League of Ireland imminent, as part of a partnership with Attacking Footy, we’ve arranged an article series where we look at our “Five to watch in 2024” for each of the three divisions in Ireland

Article (1) League of Ireland First Division

Article (2) League of Ireland Premier Division

Article (3) Womens Premier Division

So without further ado, here are my Five to Watch in the 2024 League of Ireland First Division

EPISODE ONE: League Of Ireland First Division

League Of Ireland

(1) James Crawford – Wexford

  • Age: 18
  • Citizenship: Ireland
  • Height: 1.83 m
  • Position: Left-Back
  • Current International: Ireland U19

James is the son of former Bohemians, Newcastle, and Shelbourne footballer (amongst a plethora of others) and current Republic of Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford,  but is carving a career of his own right!

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James is a product of the famed St Kevin’s Boys Academy which has developed the likes of Liam Brady, Damien Duff and more recently a certain Evan Ferguson, James was at the academy from 2013-2018 roughly between the ages of 8-13 before making the move to Bray’s Academy where he spent a season before signing for Klub Kildare.

Within a season he achieved the not to be underestimated feat of moving from U17 football with Klub Kildare to performing for Wexford FC in the 2023 First Division season making 31 appearances scoring 1 goal and providing 5 assists. James is an attack-minded Full-Back with pace, great crossing and set-piece ability but is also strong in 1v1 situations showing brilliant defensive awareness.

(2) Cathal O’Sullivan  – Cork City

image 67
  • Age: 16
  • Citizenship: Ireland
  • Height: 1,73 m
  • Position: Central Midfielder (8/10)
  • Current International: Ireland U17

A terrific talent, last summer Cathal celebrated a return from a long-term injury with the announcement he’d signed a  long-term contract until 2025. Cathal is a midfield player who can be found playing either the 8 role or even further up the field as a 10.

Cathal has been a regular feature in Pre-Season for the senior side even scoring their sole goal of the off-season coming against St Patrick’s Athletic. Based on the minutes handed to him in recent weeks expect him to play a big role in the Seniors this season especially as the season goes on.

As a product of the famous Cork City Academy which has talent all across Europe including Joe O’Brien Whitmarsh who recently signed for Southampton. Cathal O’Sullivan is a name for the 2024 notebook.

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(3)  Darren Nwankwo – Treaty United

image 68
  • Age: 18
  • Citizenship: Ireland/Nigeria
  • Height: 1,85 m
  • Position: Centre Back/Right Back
  • Current International: N/a

Darren might not be 19 until May, but he’s already made quite the name for himself since making his debut off the bench against Cork City during the 2022 season he would go on to player 21 times in the 2023 season scoring 1 goal and making 1 assist too

A local Limerick lad, he was born in Castletroy and spent time with Aisling Annacotty AFC and the Limerick FC Academy before making the switch to Treaty in May 2022 which thus far has proven a crucial move in his development working under Tommy Barrett and the team at Treaty.

A left-footed CB ( a rare and sought-after commodity in football) demonstrates all-round athleticism of a modern-day defender with pace and power and arguably most impressively a calm and composed presence far beyond his years (including in the air). Plenty are tipping him for a big future abroad and even as a future Ireland International.

(4) Aaron McLaughlin – Finn Harps

image 69
  • Age: 17
  • Citizenship: Ireland
  • Height: 1,85 m
  • Position: Attacking Midfield/ Left-Winger
  • Current International: Ireland U17
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The Ireland U17 International had a breakthrough season last year with Finn Harps making 16 appearances, playing 559 minutes and scoring his first senior goal! Aaron was named as part of the Ulster Interpros squad last year but missed out through injury.  He’s an extremely technical footballer with great dribbling ability and ball control

Having regularly featured off the bench at the beginning of last season, he became a regular fixture from the start toward the end of the season and I’m expecting a big 2024 from him!

(5) Cole Omorehiomwan – Bray Wanderers

image 70
  • Age: 21
  • Citizenship: Ireland
  • Height: 1,91 m
  • Position: Centre-Back
  • Current International: N/a

A product of the brilliant Shamrock Rovers academy, Cole made his debut for the B side back in the 2020 season before making the move to Bray for the 2023 season where he made 34 appearances and scored 6 goals.

He was one of the few shining lights in what was a disappointing season for Bray. Cole is an imposing figure, commanding in defence and a stronger tackler yet always remaining composed.

Prolific in both boxes and looks to have a huge future ahead of him this season and I wouldn’t be surprised if a big move was on the cards sooner rather than later!

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