The Glentoran, Cliftonville and Larne stars Portsmouth must consider if John Mousinho’s transfer interest in growing market is real

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Pompey boss John Mousinho believes there’s plenty of talent across the Irish Sea that needs exploring ahead of the summer.

It’s a transfer strategy that has worked well for former club Oxford United, with the U’s making the most of their contacts in both the Irish League and League of Ireland to bring across rising stars who have boosted their first team and eventually handed them a handsome profit.

Gavin Whyte, Mark Sykes and Luke McNally are just three examples of players who have been plucked from mostly part-time football and handed the chance to establish successful careers for themselves at the Kassam Stadium and beyond.

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Indeed, the likes of McNally was sold to Burnley in the summer for a fee believed to be in the region of £2m – a year-and-a-half after making the move from St Patrick’s Athletic.

Other clubs have followed suit, with promotion-chasing Barnsley bringing in Shamrock Rovers centre-back Barry Cotter for an undisclosed fee just last month.

Now, under Mousinho, Pompey are keen to return to a land that, of course, produced Ronan Curtis, who has been at Fratton Park since 2018.

But what’s currently out there and who could potentially fall under the Blues’ radar?

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Well, we enlisted the help of Belfast News Letter duo Patrick Van Dort and Johnny Morton to see what the NIFL Irish Premiership has to offer – and three names quickly sprung to mind.

From left: Lee Bonis, Terry Devlin and Sean MooreFrom left: Lee Bonis, Terry Devlin and Sean Moore
From left: Lee Bonis, Terry Devlin and Sean Moore

Lee Bonis

Larne are within touching distance of their first-ever Premiership title and a big reason behind that is the form of 23-year-old striker Lee Bonis.

He made a headline-grabbing move to the Inver Park side from Portadown in January 2022 for a reported £100,000 - a fee which would be considered an Irish League record.

The former Northern Ireland U21 international has netted 12 times in 28 league appearances this season and was rumoured to be of interest to Sky Bet Championship outfit Rotherham United in January.

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Hard-working Bonis is also a creative force for Larne alongside being a source of goals, having also contributed eight assists in the current campaign.

Terry Devlin

Devlin has established himself in Glentoran's midfield since making a summer move from Dungannon Swifts, signing a three-year contract

He played a key role in their recent unbeaten run that spanned seven matches under new boss Rodney McAree.

The 19-year-old has represented Northern Ireland at underage level and is surrounded by experienced heads at The Oval, with the likes of Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn and former Manchester United youth product Luke McCullough in the squad.

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Glentoran are one of three full-time clubs in the Irish League (alongside Bonis' Larne and Linfield) so is training every day, which has helped improve his game massively and Devlin is a fan favourite.

‘I'm a box-to-box midfielder and I like the hard-working side,’ he said during his unveiling at the club.

‘I like winning the ball back and turning it over and getting the ball to our creative players to allow them to do the scoring and assisting.’

Sean Moore

Without doubt the brightest talent in the Irish League right now is Cliftonville teenage sensation Sean Moore.

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The versatile 17-year-old can play anywhere from left-back to right-wing and is fresh off bagging a brace in their 2-1 victory over fellow title-chasing Glentoran on Saturday.

He has been linked with the likes of Premier League giants West Ham United, who were reportedly close to sealing a Deadline Day move for his services in January, but remained in Belfast and will almost certainly depart for England this summer.

Full of flair, ability and personality, his manager Paddy McLaughlin has been trying to temper expectations, but it's hard not to get carried away about a local talent like Moore.

‘It's important that he keeps working hard and developing because he is an up-and-coming star, but it's important that we don't expect too much of him too often,’ said McLaughlin.

‘There's a lot of hype about and a lot of focus on him, which I don't think is fair because he's only 17-years-old.’