5 Players to watch in the First Division in 2020

Sun, Dec 29 2019

James McSweeney of Cobh Ramblers celebrates with teammates following a goal against Wexford. Credit: Steve Alfred (ETPhotos)

After one of the most dramatic promotion races in recent history, we are almost ready to all go again in the First Division.

Shelbourne ended their long wait for a Premier Division return, but the departure of the Reds does not necessarily mean there will be a lesser second tier in 2020.

And while there will be a number of teams looking to reach the holy grail of the Premier Division football for 2021, there will also be a number of players looking to make their mark next term in the First Division.

Dara Keane (UCD)

Touted as one of the most exciting young midfielders to come through the UCD conveyor belt in recent years, Dara Keane has shown glimpses of what could very well be for the 21-year-old in the future.

The former Waterford underage star joined the Students in 2017, where he has since played for UCD’s Leinster Senior League outfit. Impressing both there and within the College’s intervarsity’s side, he has earned a number of rave reviews as to what he can go onto achieve.

Gary O’Neill and Robbie Benson are just two highly-rated midfielders who have honed their talents at Belfield in recent years and going by some of the glimpses that have been shown by the Waterford native in brief cameos to date, Keane certainly possesses the potential to excel. 

Dylan Hand (Longford Town)

A highly-rated product of the Dundalk underage set-up, Daire Doyle’s Longford Town have acquired the services of defender Dylan Hand ahead of the 2020 First Division campaign.

Keenly thought of at Oriel Park, Hand will be a welcome addition to the ranks at Bishopsgate in 2020 – especially given the void left by the retired Conor Kenna who was named in the 2019 PFAI First Division Team of the Year.

The next step for the 20-year-old Meath native seems to be in a senior first-team environment as a regular starter, and in Longford Town – the Athboy youngster may have found a match made in heaven as regards to his development for 2020.

Jack Lynch (Galway United)

Galway United have certainly impressed during the off-season with their transfer business. Shane Duggan and Michael Schlingermann have both joined forces with Alan Murphy’s side, but Murphy will be buoyed that he has managed to retain Jack Lynch.

Once of Cobh Ramblers and Waterford, Lynch joined the Tribesmen midway through the 2019 campaign in the summer months, playing a key role in a revival at Éamonn Deacy Park towards the latter part of the season.

The 21-year-old could have easily made more appearances for the Corribsiders if he had not had a injury stricken July, and should he stay fit, he certainly has the potential to turn a number of heads his way with a resurgent Galway United in 2020.    

James McSweeney (Cobh Ramblers)

A domineering defender by trade, James McSweeney of Cobh Ramblers has established himself as part of the furniture at St Colman’s Park in recent years.

Since making his league debut for the Rams in 2017, 20-year-old McSweeney has featured a further 65 times for the club, which bring his total appearance total at the club up to 70 games.

While an ever-present in recent years at the club, the defender will certainly be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Taylor who has made the leap into full-time football with Cork City – which certainly does not appear to be a too distant prospect for the Corkonian and former City youth. 

Luke Heeney (Drogheda United)

A promising defensive midfielder by trade, Luke Heeney of Drogheda United will certainly be looking to push once more in the First Division in 2020.

The former St Patrick’s Athletic prodigy joined the Boynesiders at the start of the 2019 campaign, before he made 26 league appearances for the club while also playing a key role in United’s playoff odyssey.

20-year-old Heeney is yet another valuable asset that the Co. Louth side have taken under their wings from Premier Division St Patrick’s Athletic – and should he continue in the same vain as to his forward momentum of last term, Tim Clancy and co. will only benefit from this in 2020.