OXFORD United have extended their recruitment search to the Republic of Ireland ahead of this summer’s transfer window.

Gavin Whyte and Mark Sykes have looked shrewd signings after joining from Crusaders and Glenavon respectively.

That has prompted the U’s to look again at the talent in Northern Ireland – but boss Karl Robinson has revealed they also have an eye on targets from south of the border.

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The head coach has links with the Republic of Ireland’s under 21 set-up, having worked with sports scientist Damien Doyle at Milton Keynes Dons and on a short-term basis with the U’s last summer.

Robinson said: “One of my best friends is the under 21 manager for the Republic of Ireland (Stephen Kenny) and there’s also Damo.

“So we’ve got tremendous contacts over there and we have people on the ground who I know and we’re building great relationships with.

“We’ve been over in Ireland last week because there are one or two players over there who are really impressing us.”

But it is in Northern Ireland where United have already had success.

They were surprised by the speed with which Whyte made the adjustment from semi-professional football last summer, earning him recognition with the senior international side.

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Sykes followed him to Sky Bet League One in January and has shown signs of his talent.

Robinson said: “You can’t get every transfer right, but some of the players we’ve paid money for, like Gavin and Sykesy, are going to be stars of the future.

“I think if you’re a young Northern Irish boy you’ll have seen the success that these two boys have had coming here and you’ll want to follow in their footsteps.

“We can afford them, we can get them in the squad and they’ll play here.

“There’s a development structure within the club and we’ve just got to make sure that we find the right ones.

“But they’re hungry and that’s really important.”

And the U’s boss has already tapped into the knowledge of both players for the next potential stars.

Sykes said: “The gaffer’s had a word with me and Gav about a couple of players and asked for our opinion.

“There’s a lot of good young lads playing back home and fair play to the gaffer for wanting to have a look.

“I think it’s every lad’s dream to play professional football.

“The manager put his trust in Gavin and he’s done well.

“It helped me get the move here and hopefully I do the same for somebody else.”