Once again the title contest looks like being a two-horse race between arch Dublin rivals Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.
Pat Fenlon is still in charge of Bohemians, who will be bidding to make it three championship wins in a row. For a while during the close season it looked like Fenlon could be on his way to Dundee United in Scotland, but the clubs couldn’t agree compensation so he is staying at Dalymount Park, for now.
Bohs have lost highly rated goalkeeper Brian Murphy to Ipswich Town, but Fenlon has recruited another Murphy, Barry Murphy from Shamrock Rovers, for the No1 shirt. Also joining the Gypsies are Mark Quigley from St Patrick’s Athletic and Derry City pair Steven Gray and Gareth McGlynn.
Moving to their new Tallaght Stadium home seems to have made a huge difference to Shamrock Rovers. The Hoops kept the pressure on Bohs right up until the penultimate game of last season and they have sold over 2,000 season tickets for the new campaign, which is very good by League of Ireland standards. Rovers manager Michael O’Neill, the former Northern Ireland midfielder, has snapped up Dan Murray and Danny Murphy, who were able to leave Cork City when their wages were not paid.
Last season was a special one for Sporting Fingal. They won promotion to the Premier Division in what was only their second season in the league and beat Sligo Rovers to win the Irish Cup for the first time. Fingal are managed by former Republic of Ireland striker Liam Buckley, who has strengthened his squad by bringing in ex-Irish international Glen Crowe from Bohemians and Ronan Finn, who was named first division player of the year with UCD last season.
St Patrick’s Athletic have lost nearly all of their squad and will have a completely new look this season. However, manager Pete Mahon, who took over at Pat’s from Jeff Kenna, knows the domestic scene very well and under his management Pat’s will be difficult to beat.
Liverpool-born Paul Cook has done well as Sligo Rovers manager, taking them to the Cup Final last year and also getting them in to the Europa League, which is also a tribute to the supporters in the north west of the country who have followed “The Bit o’ Red” through good times and bad in recent years.
However, it still remains to be seen whether Benin international midfielder Romuald Boco will return to Sligo after playing in the African Nations Cup.
Galway United and Dundalk have swopped managers. Sean Connor, who did reasonably well with Dundalk last season, has moved to the west of Ireland, while Ian Foster, who first came to Ireland as assistant to Jeff Kenna in Galway, takes charge of Dundalk.
Drogheda United only avoided automatic relegation last season as a result of Derry City’s expulsion from the league and manager Alan Mathews, who has lost a few players during the close season, will once again have to work with a tight budget.
After losing to Sporting Fingal in the play-off last season Bray Wanderers should have been relegated, but the financial collapse of Cork City earned Eddie Gormley’s side a reprieve.
Meanwhile, UCD, who won the First Division last season, are no strangers to the top flight, but survival may prove difficult for manager Martin Russell and his scholarship players.
Relegated Derry City will be favourites to come straight back up and, after just missing out on promotion in the past two seasons, Shelbourne will also be hoping to make it third time lucky.
March 5, 2010
October 29, 2011
November 2, 5 and 8