Young Irish Stars Secure Big Money Moves

David Prendeville

It’s been an encouraging summer transfer window for some of Ireland’s promising young stars. 20-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu has moved from Manchester City to Southampton, seeking more first team opportunities. While 21-year old centre-half, Nathan Collins, has become the most expensive Irish player in history following his £20.5 million move from relegated Burnley to Premier League Wolves.

These seem like two good, sensible moves for the respective players. While in Bazunu’s case it was nice to have an Irish player at a behemoth like City, he spent last season on loan at League 1 Portsmouth and would have a tough task displacing City’s world class number one Ederson any time soon. Perhaps it’s a little surprising that City were willing to sanction a permanent transfer for such a promising young player, but they did insert a buy back clause into the £12 million transfer deal.

Bazunu was eager for first team football to continue his development and has apparently been assured of his status as the Saints’ first choice for the coming season. The opportunity to play regularly for a decent Premier League team like Southampton at still such a young age, was far too good an opportunity to turn down.

Collins’ move seems an excellent fit. There had been murmurs that because Burnley were losing their other two centre-backs, James Tarkowski and Ben Mee, that they might insist on holding onto Collins for the forthcoming season. It would have been disheartening to see a young Irish player with as much promise as Collins have to toil away in the Championship, particularly after having such an impressive debut Premier League campaign for Burnley last season and given his recent form for Ireland.

The fact that Collins’ is now Ireland’s most expensive player of all time, eclipsing the £19.5 million Liverpool spent buying Robbie Keane from Spurs in 2008, really is a terrible indictment of the dearth of top tier talent Ireland has produced in the interim. £20.5 million, by today’s standards, still isn’t really all that much, and there is a general feeling that Wolves have gotten a bargain.

Wolves also are a very steady Premier League club, who finished in the top half last season, and who are built around a stingy defence. It should be an excellent environment for the Dubliner to thrive and continue his development in.

Another lower profile Irish transfer, also involving Burnley, is that midfielder Josh Cullen has joined the Clarets from Anderlecht, following the move made by Burnley’s new boss Vincent Kompany. Kompany is clearly a huge fan of the Irishman and at a paltry £3.5 million, it could prove to be a great bit of business. Burnley’s financial difficulties make it difficult to predict how they will fare in the Championship this season, but they should still have a reasonable chance of competing for promotion.

In a left-field move, Irish striker Aaron Connolly has also moved, on loan to Serie B side Venezia in Italy. Other players Stephen Kenny will be keeping an eye on during the rest of the window will be Jason Knight of Derby and Troy Parrott of Spurs. Kenny will be hoping Knight can get a move up from League One, while he’ll be keen for Parrott to get on loan once again to get regular playing time, following a successful temporary stint at MK Dons last season. The Dubliner was included in Antonio Conte’s squad for Spurs’ preseason tour of South Korea, which is encouraging, but with the wealth of attacking options available to Tottenham at the moment, it seems unlikely he would see much game time in the coming season.

Some veteran Irish players have also been on the move this summer. Robbie Brady has moved from Bournemouth to Preston on a one-year-deal, while Jeff Hendrick has moved on loan to Reading from Newcastle. Conor Hourihane has also been on the move, dropping down a division to link up with Derby County in League 1.