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Ireland welcomes Fahey and McPhail home

Published: Thursday 6 March 2014, 15.32CET
"I don't mind bringing my kit home and washing it, if I have to," joked Keith Fahey, who along with Stephen McPhail has returned to Ireland from England for the new domestic season.
by Aidan Fitzmaurice
from Dublin
Ireland welcomes Fahey and McPhail home
Former Ireland midfielder Stephen McPhail is presented as a Shamrock Rovers player ©Sportsfile
Published: Thursday 6 March 2014, 15.32CET

Ireland welcomes Fahey and McPhail home

"I don't mind bringing my kit home and washing it, if I have to," joked Keith Fahey, who along with Stephen McPhail has returned to Ireland from England for the new domestic season.

It is more a trickle than a flood, but the sight of high-profile international players returning home is a major boost to the League of Ireland's image as the 2014 season kicks off.

Irish clubs have been busy in the transfer market since the 2013 campaign ended but two deals in particular stand out: Shamrock Rovers FC capturing Stephen McPhail and the move by fellow midfielder Keith Fahey to rejoin Saint Patrick's Athletic FC.

While some countries have a tradition of players going home to see out their careers – big names like Henrik Larsson lining up for Helsingborgs IF and Dmitri Alenichev playing for FC Spartak Moskva before retiring – Ireland's top exports have rarely headed back to the domestic league. However, Fahey and McPhail's decisions could represent a sea change.

"It's good for the league, two very high-profile players coming back to play," says Pat Fenlon, former coach of Bohemian FC, Shelbourne FC and Derry City FC. "It will give it a higher profile; you can see there is greater interest. It's a big story that they're coming home to play for two big clubs as well."

McPhail, 34, made his name with Leeds United AFC following his debut in 1998, and captained Cardiff City FC to an FA Cup final appearance in 2008 as well as winning ten Republic of Ireland caps. "For me, it was a great option at this time of my career and it's something I'm looking forward to," said McPhail, who as a schoolboy with Home Farm FC used to travel to senior team games on the players' bus. "The League of Ireland is a challenge, something I always wanted to do since I was young."

This will be McPhail's first time in the Premier Division yet Fahey knows the ropes, having turned out for St Patrick's and Drogheda United FC. A free agent since leaving Birmingham City FC last May, he re-signed for Pats after recovering from surgery.

"I don't mind bringing my kit home and washing it, if I have to," said Fahey of the switch from being full-time with Birmingham to part-time in Dublin. "It will be a test and that's something I just have to deal with. I'm happy to be back with Pats; I needed a lift and signing for this club has given me that."

Capital rivals Rovers and Pats have won three of the last four championships between them and will challenge again in 2014 – with Rovers keen to better a disappointing fifth-place finish in 2013. Derry, under new management in Roddy Collins, are also looking to improve.

Last updated: 06/03/14 16.44CET

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