Talent Scout: Rory Donnelly, Cliftonville 


The never ending hunt for fresh, exciting talent has taken scouts to all corners of the globe in recent years, but as Premier League clubs begin to tighten their belts and look closer to home for reinforcements, they are starting to notice a hotbed of prospects right under their noses.

Look no further than the Emerald Isle, where the likes of Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Seamus Coleman have blazed a new trial for Irish players, after being plucked from the obscure league systems and turned into established top flight performers. It's taken a while for those examples to shine through, but now more and more clubs are being alerted to the cheap, adaptable talent just a ferry ride away.

Few know the current buzz about Irish prospects better than Cliftonville striker Rory Donnelly , seen by many as the best player to grace the little known IFA Premiership for years, and currently subject to intense scouting from around 15 English clubs. It's a sign of just how highly rated he, and the region, are becoming.

Donnelly is all but certain to leave Northern Ireland for the Premier League when the transfer window opens on January 1st, but after holding talks with Liverpool and Swansea, his decision has been complicated by Everton now lodging the highest bid. On top of that, Arsenal and Manchester United both made personal checks this week, and are expected to show their hand shortly. It must all come as a shock to a 19-year-old boy who is yet to go full time in the game.

The interest comes after a sensational start to the season, in which Donnelly has scored 13 goals in the opening 18 games, including four against the league's top side, Ballymena United. He caught the eye there, but has since kicked on, and sits on 17 for the campaign at present, before Cliftonville opted to bench their prize asset to avoid injury. The offers have since flowed.

It's always hard to gauge a players true ability when they're in a developing league, but based on the evidence so far, Donnelly has the raw abilities that can easily be transferred to life in the English top flight: pace, strength and work rate. Interested parties will be paying around £100,000 for his services, and for that price, shouldn't expected an all action, versatile centre forward, but if there is one thing he does bring, it's a goal threat.

Donnelly is a classic number nine, thriving on scraps and always looking to run in behind defenders, where he uses his pace and good composure to finish confidently. He's not afraid to drift wide when required, where he's a decent dribbler, and has mature decision making in his final ball.

However, Donnelly is all about converting chances, not making them. He uses his strong, six foot two inch frame to excellent effect, where he can bully defenders into submission, while also being powerful and clinical in the air. Add to that his solid work ethics and desire to chase lost causes, and he's a simple striker, but a real handful for any defender.

There is much to learn for young Donnelly , such as better link up play, leading the line and knowing when to hold and release the ball, as well as some general raw abilities than need refining, but he's a player who thrives on instincts, and they're just fine.

Overall, it's easy to see why Donnelly is worth the punt. He's got pace, power and strength, is a natural goalscorer with either foot, and is dominant in the air. Add to that his work off the ball, endless chasing and a open desire to learn, and £100,000 looks like being a real bargain.