Ward’s ‘realistic’ Wolves deal shows Irish clubs the way, says Richardson

CORK CITY boss Damien Richardson has welcomed the transfer of Bohemians striker Stephen Ward to Mick McCarthy’s Wolverhampton Wanderers for a fee that could eventually reach a record €350,000.

“At last, that is a realistic fee for an eircom League player and I am delighted for Stephen who has been outstanding for both Bohemians and the Republic of Ireland Under 21 side in recent seasons,” said Richardson.

Cork are, of course, still angry about the giveaway €120,000 deal that saw striker Kevin Doyle move to Reading two seasons ago and now sees the Wexford man as one of the top strikers in the Premiership.

Those mistakes will not happen again. Doyle has decided to pledge his future with Reading even though it is understood Aston Villa were prepared to fork out £7 million (€10.5m) for his services earlier this week.

Cork striker Roy O’Donovan and central defender Alan Bennett are the latest players to come under the transfer spotlight with inquiries from West Ham, Sunderland, Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town.

But the benchmark has been set by record signing of Ward. And Richardson is determined that there will be no more ‘giveaways’ from Turners Cross.

“It is nice to learn that the undoubted talent of our eircom League players are being recognised in the proper financial degrees,” said Richardson.

“We do not want to lose any of our top players — but you cannot stand in the way of any young man who wants to advance his career by joining a top English club. But Bohemians have shown the way with realistic deals.”

In the meantime, Richardson is heading for England today on a scouting mission.

While he will only go so far as to say that he plans to “follow up some leads” in England, he has confirmed that Liam Kearney and Colin Healy are among the options already being considered as the manager seeks to rebuild his squad ahead of the new season.

Former Turners Cross favourite Kearney, who turned 24 this week, left the then league champions to join Shelbourne in February of last year but had a frustrating season at Tolka Park during which he made only a limited contribution to Shels’ title success. Richardson has already spoken to Kearney and is hoping that the man known to the City faithful as the ‘Conna Maradona’ will return to the club where he made his name as a fleet-footed winger.

“I’d like Liam to return to Cork,” says Richardson. “I never wanted him to leave and I’ve always felt that this was the club closest to him. We’ll see what happens over the next while.”

Richardson has also expressed an interest in former Celtic and Sunderland man Colin Healy although so far no approach has been made for the Ballincollig-born midfielder who was capped 13 times for Ireland but currently appears to be out of favour at Barnsley.

As new investment plans for Cork City continue to be put into place, Richardson expresses confidence that “one or two” new signings will happen in the next couple of weeks but adds that his goal for the new season is to bring in as many as “seven or eight” new players.

In the short term, he hopes that veterans Billy Woods and Colin O’Brien will sign new contracts while, in the out tray, negotiations continue with Ipswich Town about a permanent move for George O’ Callaghan, who has been training with the club for the last three months.

Meanwhile, Shelbourne hope to announce their new manager next week, although UCD are understood to be making serious efforts to retain the services of Pete Mahon who has recently been courted by the embattled Tolka Park club.

Members of the Shelbourne Supporters Development Group met with Shels Chief Executive Ollie Byrne this week and, in a statement issued to the media, say that a commitment was given “that the club will be operated on a severely reduced budget for the foreseeable future and that the restructuring of the non-playing end of the club will commence almost immediately.”

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