The end of every League of Ireland season is always the cause of both delight and disappointment for fans, but what many fail to realise is that the off-season can also be a period of mixed emotions for players looking to win permanent contracts with clubs.
Steven Beattie and Chris Tsonis both spent time on trial with SSE Airtricity Premier Division clubs after playing together in Iceland last season for second tier side UMF Tindastoll. Both players have aspirations of plying their trade at a higher level, but only one was awarded a contract in Ireland.
American-born Tsonis began his career playing college soccer with Southern New Hampshire University and was also with Major League Soccer side New England Revolution's academy side before moving to Iceland, but wanted to try to advance his career in Ireland's top tier.
His agent set up a trial at Cork City, where the 22-year-old was impressed by the standard of football on offer. "It's definitely a step up," Tsonis told Goal. "Even in training, it's much more competitive than what I'm used to in Iceland or back home.
Tsonis impressed for the Leesiders, scoring in their 6-1 drubbing of Mervue United, but even a strong friendly performance was not enough to earn a deal at Turner's Cross. "I think I came over too late," Tsonis said. "Most of the clubs already have their squads built. John Caulfield liked what I did, but felt I was too similar to what he already had with [Anthony] Elding and Mark [O'Sullivan]."
An old friend helped him connect up with Derry City, where Roddy Collins took a look at him, but once again Tsonis failed to make the cut. "The same reason," Tsonis admits. "If I had come over earlier, I might have had a chance." Instead, he now hopes to make it elsewhere, with a possible move to the Icelandic Premier Division on the cards.
While Tsonis returned to America disappointed, former teammate Steven Beattie fared much better, agreeing a deal with Bohemians after doing well during his trial with the Gypsies.
A former Toronto FC draft pick, Beattie broke all scoring records during his college soccer career with North Kentucky University Norse, and then continued to impress up front during a season in Iceland. Before joining Tindastoll, the Dublin-native had a trial with Dundalk, but financial troubles forced him to find work abroad.
"I was on trial with Dundalk and Sean McCaffrey wanted to sign me," Beattie said. "I was close to a deal and then Sean left, so I moved to Iceland."
However, Beattie returned home after the Icelandic league ended, looking to earn a contract with a club in his homeland. The 25-year-old took a rather unusual approach getting his foot in the door at Bohs. "I have an American agent. He doesn't really know much about the Irish league, so I picked up the phone myself and rang Owen."
Beattie came off the bench to score a hat-trick against Swords Celtic, which gained him instant recognition from Gypsies fans on social media. "I knew the League of Ireland was big in Ireland, but I didn't realise it was this big," Beattie admitted. "I had loads of people comment to me on Twitter, on Youtube. It makes you feel wanted. It's a big reason why I wanted to sign for Bohs."
Having played in America, Canada, and Iceland, Beattie was impressed by the standard of play in Ireland, where every game is competitive rather than just a couple of mainstays topping the table each year.
"I think it's a better standard here throughout the league from top to bottom," Beattie said. "I've been very impressed with the players at Bohs. Obviously learning a bit from Jason Byrne is a great help. Jason has an Irish cap, and not many people can walk around saying that."
While Tsonis suffered the disappointment of two failed trials in Ireland, Beattie is delighted to be starting a new chapter of his career at Dalymount Park.
"After such a long time away, I cant wait to get started playing at home with a big club like Bohemians," Beattie said.