Preston’s recruitment in Ireland has been dialled back a little over the last year, but North End may have other involvement in mind now.
In recent years, Preston have almost made the Irish market their own. It all started with Alan Browne’s arrival in 2014, raiding Cork City for the young midfielder who remains a fixture of the North End side to this day.
In 2017, deals were secured for Dundalk defender Andy Boyle and winger Daryl Horgan. The pair attracted major interest having impressed in the Europa League, but picked Preston, joining for free at the end of their contracts.
Seani Maguire and Kevin O’Connor followed from Cork just months later, and in 2018, Graham Burke joined from Shamrock Rovers. Add in youth recruitment of Jimmy Corcoran from Cherry Orchard, Brian McManus from St Kevin Boys and Adam O’Reilly from Ringmahon Rangers, and it’s clear that North End have placed a real emphasis on the Emerald Isle.
Success has been a mixed bag; Maguire and Browne remain first-team regulars, but Boyle, O’Connor and Burke are already back in Irish football, whilst Horgan was offloaded to Hibernian in 2018.
That has seen the influx grind to a halt, but Preston may have big plans yet. The Irish Times and Irish Examiner both report that North End officials were in Cork on Tuesday, in an attempt to ‘strengthen ties’ with Cork City.
North End already have an alliance with Cork-based Ringmahon Rangers, but an official partnership with Cork could also emerge. Intriguingly, the Examiner suggest that talks could see North End pay Cork a lump sum to help their cash flow issues, but would see them lose their sell-on clause in midfielder Browne.
Browne is expected to move on this summer if North End don’t win promtion, so this may be another step towards selling the Ireland international, retaining the full transfer fee rather than being forced to send a portion to Cork.
Additionally, the Times claim that it may be a ploy due to Brexit. English clubs may be keen on housing players in Irish clubs until they’re 18 to circumvent restrictions surrounding overseas signings. North End aren’t exactly prolific when it comes to signing foreign youngsters, but such an arrangement may be appealing.
A takeover of Cork has been denied, and any investment would have to be sanctioned by FORAS, the fan group that own the club. This is now a situation to keep an eye on, with North End clearly keen to make a partnership with Cork official for whatever reason, whether it’s merely to help them in times of struggle, or for a series of personal gains.