One expected and the other not, Matt Doherty and Michael Obafemi were the two prime Irish movers of the January transfer window.
Atlético Madrid became aware of Doherty’s availability on deadline day once Tottenham Hotspur succeeded in resurrecting their swoop for €35m-rated Pedro Porro, the Spaniard at Sporting Lisbon they’ve been chasing for several weeks.
Doherty (31) had played his way into Antonio Conte’s plans after the World Cup break, the latest of his five starts since coming in Saturday’s FA Cup victory at Preston North End, but the Italian made clear his desire for upgrades in personnel for his target of ending the club’s silverware drought to gain traction.
Emerson Royal supplies cover from that right wing-back berth and he has others capable of versatility, placing the Irishman as the odd defender out.
While a switch back to Wolves or another English club had been floated, the Spanish scene wasn’t such an outlandish escape given his circle.
The Swords native signed up with Gestifute, the company led by super-agent Jorge Mendes, ahead of his €18m switch to Spurs from Wolves in 2020 and they hold sway in boardrooms across Iberia.
Doherty’s arrangement is now understood to be a permanent one, with Spurs saying a mutual agreement was reached to cancel the Irishman's contract.
"We have mutually agreed to the termination of Matt Doherty’s contract to enable him to join another club," a club statement read.
"Signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers in August, 2020, the Republic of Ireland international made 71 appearances for us in all competitions, scoring three goals.
"We should like to thank Matt for his service and wish him well for the future."
By agreeing to the accord, the Champions League is robbed of its sole likely Irish participant in the knockout stages. It will take an injury or suspension to Alisson for Caoimhín Kelleher to claim the Liverpool No 1 spot but Doherty had a chance of involvement in the upcoming last-16 tie against AC Milan.
Atlético reached the finals of Europe’s Premier competition in 2014 and 2016 but, despite being still under the management of Diego Simeone, crashed out of this year’s competition by finishing bottom of their group. Doherty will become the first Irishman to line out for either of the Spanish capital’s two major clubs.
Obafemi’s finalised deal on Sunday, a loan with the obligation to buy in the summer, could have created a berth for his compatriot Chiedozie Ogbene to fill at Swansea City.
Rotherham United had knocked back bids from the Swans early in the month and though fellow Championship outfits Millwall and Middlesbrough were also admirers, the valuation wasn’t met. Ogbene (24) will remain with the Millers for the rest of the campaign but will be entitled to leave for free when his contract lapses.
Other Irishmen who swapped workplaces on deadline day included Gavin Kilkenny.
A prominent member of the Ireland U21 squad that reached the Euro finals playoff in September, Bournemouth allowed me to curb one temporary deal, at Stoke City, for a step down to League One club Charlton Athletic in pursuit of minutes. Addicks boss Dean Holden shared Kilkenny’s frustration at his lack of action at Stoke while he worked there.
Holden said: “Gavin is a player I know well, having worked with him at Stoke and we are very fortunate we could get him, especially given the number of games he played in Bournemouth’s promotion campaign to the Premier League last season.” Crystal Palace were also party to some Irish transactions, one approved and the other blocked. Firstly, they activated a €75,000 release clause in his contract of Franco Umeh to pounce for the Cork City attacker.
Several English clubs have been monitoring the Ireland U19 international, who broke into City’s first-team in last year’s First Division title-winning campaign in June, and he’s a free path to the UK since turning 18 last week.
Paddy McCarthy, the former Ireland U21 captain who is Palace’s U23 lead coach, watched the pacey forward in action when visiting Abbotstown for City’s pre-season friendly against Dundalk and sanctioned a deal to secure the talent.
Ringmahon Rangers, the schoolboy club Umeh left at 15 to join the Rebels, will receive a portion of the fee under compensation protocols and there are a series of milestone add-ons provided for, including senior international caps for either Ireland or Nigeria.
Only last week, City lost another teen, striker Mark O’Mahony, to Brighton and Hove Albion in a similar arrangement, while first-choice goalkeeper David Harrington has joined Fleetwood Town in England’s League One.
Palace, however, rejected a bid from Bristol City for another City graduate, Jake O’Brien. The towering defender has been flourishing on loan at Belgian second division leaders RWD Molenbeek, making 18 appearances as part of a three-man defensive unit and scoring his first goal last Sunday.
One of Palace manager Patrick Vieira’s former cadets at Manchester City and Nice, Deji Sotona, is back in the UK having joined Burnley.
Cork's Eoghan O'Connell has made the switch to Wrexham - who are owned by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney - from Charlton Athletic, while Mark Kennedy’s Lincoln City completed the recruitment of UCD attacker Dylan Duffy, a deal in the pipeline since last October.
Hmmm 🇮🇪 ⚔️🏴 pic.twitter.com/JyBlMuGojd— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) January 31, 2023
Elsewhere, Ireland women's international Rianna Jarrett has rejoined her hometown club of Wexford Youths after English Championship side London City Lionesses agreed to cancel her contract.