David Cawley has signed a new two and-a-half year contract with Sligo Rovers, while youngsters Niall Morahan and Luke McNicholas have signed until the end of next season in their first professional deals.
But former Liverpool striker Adam Morgan has departed the club as he is set to continue his rehabilitation from a troublesome abdominal injury back home on Merseyside.
Leitrim native Niall Morahan joined the Rovers Under-17 side from Carrick Town, and also played for Strand Celtic. He was the club’s U17 Player of the Year last year and is the current U19 captain.
Goalkeeper Luke McNicholas joined Rovers underage set-up from Manulla in Mayo and is a Republic of Ireland U18 and schoolboy international.
With both players having finished their Leaving Cert, they now commence full-time training with the Bit O’ Red for the next year and a half at least on professional contracts.
With new deals also recently announced for youngsters John Mahon, Jack Keaney and Ed McGinty, Rovers boss Gerard Lyttle says it is important that the club continue to develop talent from within…
Cawley has been one of Rovers’ most consistently impressive performers this season, and he admits that he has been happy with his return to the club…
Morgan has made just one substitute appearance for Rovers since April as he battled with injury, and Lyttle says he has been very unfortunate…
“I try to get to as many of the matches as I can and now that school is off we’ve brought more in for training. I see the likes of Darren Collins or Dan Beya or whoever it is and you get to know them a bit better when they’re in with us.
“We are not signing these lads today for the sake of it. The club has taken this route in recent years and more and more are emerging. I think if we can keep them together, keep their mentality, then it can produce some terrific players and our own players at that. So much has been spoken about Raff Cretaro in the last week.
“It didn’t happen overnight for Raff and it didn’t happen easily. He was, for so long, one of the few local links to the team. But if you work at it, they do come along more frequently.
“The club will maintain a full-time environment that will aim to compete with the best in the country. We aren’t there yet but we will keep trying to improve and it’s about building.
“We have signed senior players from in the league and outside the league that are the base of our team and that will also continue.
Lyttle said on the duo: “Niall is the captain of our Under-19s and very consistent. He’s in with us now in first-team training and we want to see how the full-time environment will benefit him and take him to the next level. There’s a lot of potential in Niall. Again, like a few players previously at the youth level, he has worked for this chance.
“Out of all the players we’ve signed on pro terms, Luke is one that really, really excites me. Rodney, our former goalkeeping coach, felt he was a brilliant talent. He now makes the step up and it’s going to be great for him.
“We’ve already held a couple of conversations about a loan move in the future – just to get some senior football if we can – because training and Under-19s games aren’t enough for certain players. That’s for next year, however. For now he’ll come in and work with the goalkeepers. That’s his focus and to become comfortable in the set-up. He’s one we have a lot of confidence that he can do well but like any player, they have to grab it with both hands now.”
Luke said: “The experience of being part of the first team has been first class. I’ve loved it and there’s an obvious step up in class.
“To work with someone like Mitchell Beeney is unbelievable and I know Ed who is going from strength to strength.
“My club in Mayo, Manulla, were very supportive of me and were the big part of my earlier years of playing football. I’m grateful to them today. My family have also always been behind me so I want to thank all of them too.
“It’s going to be a great experience being a permanent part of the first-team squad. I want to show I’m here on merit and best of all I can play Under-19s for the next year so it gives me a chance to keep playing matches. We get top coaching and I feel I’m in a great place to keep getting better. I’m thrilled to sign today.”
Niall said: “It is that cliche of a dream come true to sign as a professional, it is every young lad’s ambition. I’ve been in training with the first-team and it has been terrific. There are plenty of players I know like John Mahon and Jack Keaney and they’ve set the example.
“This is a great opportunity for me. I was involved in pre-season with the first-team and play Under-19 now. That’ll continue hopefully. But I think I can replicate what the lads have done eventually. I’m sure the coaches have a plan around that, the Under-19 management and the Under-17 before that too has been brilliant.
“It is nice to be a Sligo Rovers first-team player from Leitrim too – Rovers have a following in the area and people in the county would be asking how you are getting on there.
“My former club Carrick Town has a good link with Rovers. I’d like to mention them too for all their help. Hopefully it grows the link between Leitrim and the club. I want to progress and signing professionally where I can put 100% into my football will give me a great chance. I’m going to keep working hard and do my best with this platform I’ve been given.”
David Cawley said: “There is always a bit of pressure when you come back to a club, particularly given there was success last time.
“I’ve been really pleased with how it has gone so far on a personal level. I’m really enjoying my football and this is the club I love being at more than any other. This is a great for stability for myself, my family and I don’t have to worry about contracts for the next two years, I can focus completely on my football.
“I’ve had some difficult experiences but like anything in life you become that bit older and wiser and focused. I keep my head down and do my job and I’m the extra voice in the dressing-room when it’s needed.
“I’ve built up a good understanding with Rhys McCabe and now Lee Lynch has come in too. I get on great with Lee off the pitch and we’ve kind of always had an understanding. It’s an energetic midfield that I think is quite strong.
“I don’t think we’re a million miles off a higher level as a team. There’s a better understanding in the team now. We need to climb the table and move away from where we are. There’s also the possibility of a Cup final and a Cup run to come.
“I get on really well with Gerard. He’s an ambitious young manager. He’s a great communicator I find and he has a vision for the club.
“We’re going the right way about things. It’s not an overnight job but I’m signing this contract today knowing that I want the club to be challenging at the other end of the table during this spell. It’s where a club like this should be.”
“At the testimonial match last week, I think it all put the era of success the club had in our minds given so many people from that time were there. Why would you not want that again? That’s the question everyone should ask. And the new lads here probably saw the way those players get looked at and how they are thought of by the fans. It’s up to us to bring the club back towards those times. I’m delighted my future is here and I want to keep going in a positive direction.”
Gerard Lyttle said: “I think everyone would agree David has been one of, if not, our best player this season. He has done his talking on the pitch. He’s a very good footballer and has been so consistent. David is a quiet lad but his displays on the pitch show a maturity and we’ve benefited so much from his return to the club.
“He deserves this contract. The club are excellent at rewarding the players. It is thinking ahead. We don’t want one-year deal and renegotiating at a certain point every year. The players that perform on a consistent basis will reap the benefits. The proof is there with the actions of the club.
“We will hopefully sit down with one or two players soon. Our priority is getting points on the board first and foremost. It’s up the players to show how much they want to be here. David has been rewarded today by his desire to succeed with Sligo Rovers.”