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N Ireland striker linked to Sunderland; Grayson has history plucking talent from Irish leagues

Linfield forward Paul Smyth has been linked with a move to Sunderland. The youngster is merely the latest in a decade-long line of prospects to appear on Simon Grayson’s radar from across the Irish Sea.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Sunderland are one of a host of clubs monitoring Linfield forward Paul Smyth according to the Belfast Telegraph.

The 19-year-old is one of the hottest properties in Northern Ireland and is also attracting the interest of Newcastle and Everton as well as second tier sides Birmingham and Sheffield United says the report.

Linfield v Celtic - UEFA Champions League Qualifying Second Round: First Leg
Paul Smyth (L) playing for Linfield against Celtic in a Champions League qualifying game last month
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Smyth has hit 14 goals in 53 games for the current Danske Bank Premier League champions. According to his profile on Linfield’s website, the forward is “pacy and a real pain for defenders”.

Linfield are managed by former Sunderland midfielder David Healy. The ex-striker holds some renown on Wearside for being signed to the Black Cats for two-and-a-half years and never starting a league game.

Healy did manage one Premier League goal at the Stadium of Light though, before being sent on loan to Ipswich and Doncaster and signing permanently for Rangers in 2011.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - FA Cup 4th Round Replay
David Healy slips over playing for Sunderland in 2009
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Current Sunderland boss Simon Grayson has had some success raiding the northern and southern Irish leagues for talent.

Preston striker Sean Maguire was one of Grayson’s final signings before he departed Deepdale for the Stadium of Light. The forward who arrived from Cork City in June made his Lilywhites debut last weekend.

Maguire’s teammates Andrew Boyle and Daryl Horgan were plucked from Dundalk in January by Grayson who has been a regular visitor across the Irish sea. Indeed no less than eleven League of Ireland players have been brought to England in the last decade by Simon Grayson during his managerial career.

Notable names include Wes Hoolahan. The Republic of Ireland international was signed by the current Black Cats supremo from Scottish Championship side Livingston when he was boss at Blackpool.

Hoolahan, who has been a Norwich stalwart since he left the Tangerines, was just six months into his spell north of the border when Grayson lured him to Blackpool and after originally making his name with Shelbourne.

Blackpool v Northampton Town
Wes Hoolahan was signed by Simon Grayson for Blackpool in 2007
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Also during his Blackpool era, Grayson signed former Bolton and Everton midfielder Gareth Farrelly from Dublin side Bohemians and he added Alan Browne to his Preston ranks in 2014 with the midfielder going on to make nearly 100 appearances for the Lancashire club.

Grayson appears to have dedicated some time to establishing his talent spotting links in Northern Ireland and the Republic and regularly spoke of the scouts he had operating over there during his Preston days.

Indeed, Preston had the strongest Irish contingent in the Football League during the Sunderland manager’s tenure at Deepdale.

Five players hailing from across the Irish Sea were on the Lilywhites books at the time Grayson moved to the Stadium of Light and he has already added Republic of Ireland winger Aiden McGeady to his red-and-white ranks. Who will be next to sail in?