Dundalk could swoop for Dundee United defender Mark Connolly as Dunfermline boss John Hughes nervously awaits clarity on the player’s future.
The on-loan Tannadice stopper has been a pivotal performer for the Pars since his arrival on September 29, emerging as a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room.
However, he is slated to return to United on January 16.
Extending the Irishman’s stay in Fife is one of Hughes’ top priorities this month and, despite some ‘frustration’, he hopes talks will accelerate in the coming days.
However, in a major blow for Hughes, the Irish Independent reports that Dundalk boss Stephen O’Donnell is ready to make a move for Connolly this month.
“Mark is one who we are trying to knuckle down,” explained Hughes. “He has been good for us. You could see on Sunday [0-0 draw at Raith Rovers] that he’s a warrior and stands up to the challenge.
“He is good around the boys and brings that experience.
“Mark demands of them on the training pitch, has got a voice and it is a little frustrating that we cannot pin him down — but hopefully we can do that this week.
“We are working on keeping him. He is still with us for another couple of games and hopefully by next week I will have an answer.”
Ross Graham: ‘Big future’
While Hughes is desperate to keep Connolly at East End Park, fellow United centre-half Ross Graham was recalled to Tannadice.
Graham made a total of nine appearances for Dunfermline; none coming under Hughes. His final start for the club was in a 3-1 defeat at Ayr United on September 11.
However, the Pars boss is adamant Graham — contracted to United until the summer of 2024 — has a ‘big future’.
“I feel that Ross has a real chance,” said Hughes.
“As he goes back to Dundee United, Ross has a big future in the game.
“I spoke to him and he was not a problem for me. He trained really well but never really got his chance here.
“Since I have come in, I just feel that Rhys Breen is our project. We need to invest our time in Rhys.”
“We have irons in every fire,” smiled Hughes. “But it’s a case of: can we do it? Is he coming or going? Are clubs in for a few of my players?
“All that has to come together for things to happen.
“You are hopeful and optimistic — but I’ve been in football long enough not to count your chickens before they hatch.”