BY RYAN FERRY
THE new USL season begins on Sunday-week, February 23rd and managers have been busy fine-tuning their squads in preparation for the new dawn.
The transfer window came to a close two weeks ago, meaning that USL clubs can no longer transfer players in from other teams. However, they are still able to sign unattached players.
Letterkenny Rovers were the busiest USL side in the transfer window bringing in a number of new faces. They have persuaded Oisin McMenamin to return to the club from a successful sojourn with Rathmullan Celtic in the Donegal League.
Former Finn Harps players Matt Harkin and Aaron O’Hagan have joined Rovers, as have Barry O’Donnell and Darren ‘Kenny’ Doran, while the acquisition of Stephen O’Donnell should provide them with plenty of firepower.
Neil Lloyd returns to Intermediate football after an underwhelming spell with Curragh Athletic, and former Irish Amateur goalkeeper Christopher Sweeney has left Gweedore Celtic to join the Leckview Park outfit.
Trevor Scanlon fielded a youthful team in last year’s Ulster Senior League, but they finished well off the place in third position,18 points adrift of league winners Cockhill Celtic,
Scanlon’s new additions should give Rovers a lot of depth to their squad and they will fancy their chances of challenging for the title this season.
It’s been a quiet close season for the champions Cockhill with no comings or goings. Donal O’Brien managed to keep hold of his squad due to their involvement in the Intermediate Cup with Finn Harps’ interest in goalkeeper Gavin Cullen cooling after initial promising soundings.
O’Brien was courting a number of players in the Inishowen League, but was unable to sign anyone by the time the window shut. However, they are still in the market for unattached players.
Drumkeen United finished second in the league last year, but they have been hit hard over the winter with a number of their key players moving on.
Packie Mailey and David Shovlin will both don the colours of Finn Harps, while Seimi ‘Nanny’ Friel and Richie Moore, who were both integral players in the team last season, are currently plying their trade with Cranford United and Drumoghill, respectively, in the Donegal League.
Drumkeen manager Mickey Rodgers confirmed that local lad Gary Patton has returned to St Patrick’s Park, while Gavin Reilly has also signed from Cappry Rovers. Rodgers added that he hopes to add a few new faces to his squad before the start of the season, but remained coy on who he was chasing.
It has been relatively quiet at Swilly Park, although Swilly Rovers have brought in Ryan Shields from Kilmacrennan Celtic , while Kieran Harte has agreed to commute from Dublin and rejoin his hometown club.
The Ramelton men were without veteran midfielder Marty McDaid for the majority of the last season, and Swilly manager, Jason Gibson says McDaid’s return from injury is like a new signing.
James McCahill had been linked with a move back to the Ramelton club, but he will continue to play his football with Fanad United this term.
New Fanad manager, Michael Deeney has admitted that he has found it difficult to bring players to the club since he took over the reins from Ollie Horgan at Triagh-a-loch.
Derry native Darren Nash, Jonny Logue and Blain Curtis have all signed on for the season, while Deeney is hopeful of adding Curtis’ brother, Declan to his squad once he has recovered from appendicitis.
Brian McVeigh, who was recently on trial with Finn Harps, is another player who has been mooted as a possible signing and it is believed that he lined out for the club in their friendly clash with Mulroy Celtic last week.
The Fanad manager was in the market for experienced local players in the Donegal League, but with Kerrykeel ‘71 currently aiming for promotion in the Watson Hire Division One and Cranford United attempting to avoid the drop in the Premier Division, he was unable to secure any signatures.
However, Deeney is hopeful of adding some experience to complement his youthful side in the summer.
Peter Moran has returned to the Bonagee Unite hotseast, and he brings back energy and enthusiasm to the job after a brief stint away from the club.
Noel O’Donnell, JP Doran and Paddy O’Loan switched to Bonagee’s Donegal League team over the winter months, but they have since moved to the club’s Ulster Senior league set-up.
Bonagee have retained the majority of the squad they finished last season with, including Anthony Appiah, who was also on Ollie Horgan’s radar recently.
The transfer window will reopen on June 1, and it is expected that a number of Donegal League players will step up to Intermediate level then.
The new season gets underway on Sunday, February 23 with the Donegal News league Cup, and the league season begins on March 16.