THE most eye-catching transfer of an eventful League of Ireland off-season concerns the loan of midfielder Aaron Bolger from Shamrock Rovers to Premier League Cardiff City.
The former St Joseph’s Boys schoolboy has agreed a short-term loan with a view to making the move permanent in the summer.
He leaves Tallaght Stadium – temporarily at least – having made 36 appearances in all competitions – 19 of which were starts – and 24 in the league.
Bolger had been widely tipped to make the move across the water at some stage having broken through at Rovers aged 16.
The combative midfielder, whose low centre of gravity is a particular asset in retaining the ball, made his debut in a 5-0 FAI Cup defeat to Cork City in 2016.
That was Stephen Bradley’s second game in charge of the Hoops having taken over from Pat Fenlon, and signalled the focus on youth he intended to take.
Bolger became more prominent the following season, while in fifth year at school, and made 17 appearances in total that year.
He scored his first senior goal – and only goal for Rovers – in a 4-1 hammering of Drogheda United at Tallaght Stadium.
Bolger became less prominent during the 2018 season as he nursed an injury during the first half of the season while balancing football with his Leaving Cert.
He played all four games for Ireland under-17s as Colin O’Brien’s reached the quarter-finals of the 2017 European Championships in Croatia, losing to eventual winners England.
Bolger, who turned 19 on Saturday, is the second of the ‘Ashfield Three’ to make the move across the Irish Sea after impressing in Bradley’s first team.
Rovers had stumped up to put three promising underage players – Bolger, Gavin Bazunu and Dean Dillon – through their Leaving Cert while training at professional level.
Bazunu was signed by Manchester City last year after the world’s richest club agreed a €500,000 fee with the Hoops.
Having initially been expected to remain with Rovers until completing his studies, it appears the gifted goalkeeper will travel over sooner.
As well as developing youth, Rovers have also acted as a springboard for talented players who have seen their careers in the UK stall.
Graham Burke recently fetched a €350,000 fee from Preston North End after an impressive 18 months in Tallaght, while former Ireland under-21 captain Jack Byrne recently signed.