Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: Preston have certainly had a mixed bag when it comes to signings from the League of Ireland

Preston North End's Alan Browne
Preston North End's Alan Browne

Preston’s shopping basket in recent transfer windows has tended to contain an Irish bargain or two.

At both first-team and youth level, the Lilywhites have cast their net over the water with varying degrees of success.

January was different in that the only Irish-themed trading was out of Deepdale.

Andy Boyle and Graham Burke departed North End on loan in the latter stages of the window, while Kevin O’Connor has been back at former club Cork sorting out a return.

Last summer there was an exit for Daryl Horgan too, thus the Irish contingent not being as big in numbers as it was once was.

It does beg the question of whether North End have had the best of what the League of Ireland has to offer, or is this period just a dip?

In terms of the success of their raids on the Republic of Ireland, there have been some hits and some misses.

Alan Browne you would put firmly in the hit parade of the shopping done there since 2014.

Signed as a 17-year-old with just Under-19s football under his belt for Cork City, Browne must be regarded as one of the best transfers Preston have done, not just in Ireland but anywhere.

He cost about £20,000 in January 2014 but what price would you put on him now?

It has been a pleasure to see him blossom over the years in a PNE shirt, to start with in League One and then in the Championship.

Browne is a Republic of Ireland international and the Preston fans sing the ‘Baluga’ song about him.

The midfielder is proof that bargains are out there and then can be developed with a little patience and the right coaching.

There was a three-year gap between the signing of Browne and the double swoop on Dundalk for Boyle and Horgan in January 2017.

This was a different kind of shopping expedition than the Browne deal was.

Horgan and Boyle arrived fresh from being League of Ireland title winners with Dundalk, so too playing in the Europa League.

At the time, Horgan was perhaps the stellar player in Irish football, his name linked with a number of clubs – some higher up than North End were.

I’d go as far as to say that Horgan was a minor hit at North End, certainly not a miss.

His best spell came early in his stay at Deepdale, that half season between January and May 2017.

Starts dried-up after the change of manager, Alex Neil’s use of wide players in a 4-2-3-1 system different to how Simon Grayson wanted his wingers to play.

Under Neil, we still saw flashes of what Horgan was about – his goal at Burton in December 2017 and display in last January’s FA Cup win at Wycombe spring to mind.

He left for Hibernian last August in the pursuit of a regular game to protect his international ambitions.

Boyle’s time in a Preston shirt won’t be remembered for too long.

Unlike Horgan he had to wait a while for his chance, his debut away at Derby in March 2017 memorable for his girlfriend making a dash by taxi from Preston to Pride Park in time to see him play.

The centre-half has just embarked on his third loan spell away from Deepdale, this time at Ross County.

Boyle went north of the border in the first-half of the season too, with Dundee.

The second-half of last term he spent in League One with Doncaster.

With his contract up in the summer, we have in all but name bid him farewell.

The summer of 2017 saw Sean Maguire and O’Connor arrive from Cork.

Maguire, like Horgan had been, was at the time the stand-out player in the League of Ireland – banging in goals for fun.

Troublesome hamstrings aside, the striker falls into the hit category.

If North End can keep him fit, keep those hamstrings in check, he will offer so much to the team.

Left-back O’Connor found English football a struggle, that quite a surprise when you bear in mind some of the glowing testimonials he got in Ireland before moving.

We will remember him for last January’s win on the Irish lottery more than for what he did on the pitch.

North End were back in Ireland last summer to sign Graham Burke.

Burke was the star turn in Ireland, as had been Maguire and Horgan.

He was snapped-up after scoring goals aplenty for Shamrock Rovers and with a first Republic of Ireland cap in his collection.

The fact Burke is now out on loan at Gillingham is a pointer to how the first six months went at PNE.

Time remains on his side, the attacker’s contract will have two more years to run on his return in May.

But Burke has plenty to do if he’s to get back in the frame at Deepdale.

Scratch below the surface of the first-team and there are a couple of young gems in the youth set-up.

Adam O’Reilly recently signed his first pro deal and can hopefully follow in the footsteps of Browne – both played junior football for Ringmahon Rangers in Cork.

A year below O’Reilly in the academy is goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran, the former Cherry Orchard player one to keep your eye on.