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Friday 20 October 2017

From Anfield to Inchicore for Alex

Alex O’Hanlon in action for Liverpool against UCD in Belfield. Pic: Sportsfile
Alex O’Hanlon in action for Liverpool against UCD in Belfield. Pic: Sportsfile

From Anfield Road to Emmet Road, Dubliner Alex O'Hanlon has found a new home in his native city and has been backed to make an impact with St Patrick's Athletic in the coming season.

The 20-year-old, once touted as a first-team prospect with Liverpool, will try to get his career moving in the red and white shirt of Pat's next term after O'Hanlon was unveiled as one of three new signings by the Inchicore club.

"Alex is a hugely talented player and I'm delighted to welcome him to the club," said Pat's boss Liam Buckley.

"Alex has an excellent left foot and will be a signing that our supporters can look forward to seeing in the colours of St Pat's.

Experience

"He has experience from being involved in the Liverpool set-up for five years and has played at underage level for Ireland so we're looking forward to see him feature throughout the 2017 season."

Some Saints supporters had been concerned about the lack of transfer activity, with only two new signings made before yesterday, but the three new arrivals will spark optimism.

Keeper Barry Murphy is back at Pat's for a second spell while Kurtis Byrne moves from Bohemians, where he was one of the Gypsies' star players in a poor season last term.

But the arrival of O'Hanlon is an intriguing development. He moved to Liverpool from St Kevin's Boys as a 16-year-old - when he was the subject of offers from a number of English Premier League teams - and was thought to be making good progress at the Anfield academy, earning positive reports from the coaching staff, O'Hanlon also featuring for the Reds on some of their trips to Ireland for games with a second-string squad.

But last summer O'Hanlon was allowed leave, along with fellow Dubliner Daniel Cleary (who joined Birmingham City) and while a move for O'Hanlon to Championship side Huddersfield Town looked likely at one stage, he found himself without a club until this move to Pat's.

Former team-mate Cleary had dropped down a level to the Championship while O'Hanlon has been forced to move back here to make things happen.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been praised for giving the club's young players a run in the side, with a very youthful face on the team which played (and, disappointingly, drew) at home to League Two side Plymouth on Sunday.

Klopp is keen, where possible, to promote from within instead of buying in and Reds supporters will be encouraged to see teenagers like Ben Woodburn and Trent Alex-Arnold get a run.

But, as so many players from this island have found out before, making the first team at Liverpool is very tricky for an Irish footballer.

The door is not closed, though, and Caoimhin Kelleher and Conor Masterson (both 18) are still at Anfield. Cork lad Kelleher is a highly-rated keeper while Masterson was captain of the Reds' U18 side last term while Glen McAuley (16) is also a prospect.

Fellow Dubliner Steven Kinsella had a spell on loan to Pat's, from Everton, last season and he spoke of the benefits of getting first-team football exposure in the league, so the challenge for O'Hanlon now is to work his way into the team under Buckley. Pat's will be hungry for success in 2017 as they endure the disappointment of failing to qualify for Europe next summer.

Impresses

With keeper Brendan Clarke now at Limerick, new arrival Murphy will challenge Conor O'Malley for the No.1 shirt while Byrne, who impressed for Bohs last term, will add something up front.

Meanwhile, Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny has confirmed that Alan Keane and Dean Shiels have left the club but he hopes that John Mountney and David McMillan will sign new deals, along with six possible new arrivals.

Local reports in Dundalk have linked the champions with moves for St Pat's man Jamie McGrath and former Ireland U21 star Conor Clifford, who has been lining out for English non-league side Boreham Wood for the last 18 months.

"We have already brought Seán Hoare in and we are looking at another five or six after that," manager Kenny told the Dundalk Democrat.

"It's quite different to last year where we only brought in two players but people have moved on for various reasons and we have to rebuild. It's a big challenge for us."

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