So after months of waiting, The League of Ireland finally returns again this Friday. Throughout the close season there has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of the league and the participating clubs. Clubs such as, defending champions, Bohemians and Galway have been reported to be suffering financially but have managed to get themselves below the SCP (Salary Cap Protocol) , whereas Cork City (who are now known as Cork City Foras Co-op) and Derry City have been demoted to the first division as a result of breaching the regulations of the league.
Bohemians are once again the favourites to secure the title and have made some useful additions which has given them a lot of strength in depth, After losing Brian Murphy and Gary Deegan to Ipswich and Coventry respectively, The addition of Barry Murphy, Aaron Greene, Mark Quigley and Ruaidhri Higgins look set to help Bohs mount a strong defense of their trophy. Shamrock Rovers should be their biggest danger to the title as they pushed them all the way last season, however, Rovers squad has been completely dismantled, after releasing quite a number of players, and it remains to be seen how their new signings will adjust to playing with other. A signing which has caught the eye for Rovers is Craig Walsh, who appeared on Sky One’s “Football Next Star”.
The leagues’ newcomers, Sporting Fingal are hoping to compete on a level par with the current clubs and many believe they can mount a challenge for the top prize with the additions they have made, in the form of Glen Crowe and Ronan Finn which complements an already talented squad. Dundalk are another club hoping to compete for a place in Europe come the end of the season with new manager Ian Foster in place. Dundalk have made a number of new signings including former Cork City and Bohemians striker Neale Fenn. Another club with a possible claim for a European place is St.Patricks Atlethic, however the departure of Mark Quigley to champions Bohemians will in my opinion be a stumbling for the Inchicore club.
Galway United are an interesting prospect this season under the guidance of the ever unpredictable Sean Connor. The club could really go either way this season depending on the style of management Connor implements at Terryland Park. However, I do believe Galway have made some very good additions during the close season including former Everton trainee Karl Sheppard who has the potential to take this league by storm. Sligo Rovers are another team which could go either way after losing several keys players, however keeping Paul Cook in charge is a big boost for the Bit O’ Red.
Meanwhile the bottom of the table should feature teams such as UCD, Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers who in all fairness are unlikely to pick up many points against the top clubs this season.
The league promises to be one of the most exciting in recent times, so try your best to get down to your local club whether it be Bohs, Sligo or even Bray. It doesn’t cost a fortune to support your local team and you can’t beat the thrill of live football.
Winners : Bohemians (13/10)
Runners Up : Shamrock Rovers
Relegation : Bray (7/4 to finish bottom)
Top Goalscorer : Paddy Madden (12/1)
One to watch : Karl Sheppard (66/1 to be top goalscorer)
Darkhorses : St.Pats (12/1 to win the league)
The odds quoted above are general prices from several leading bookmakers.
Make sure to tune in every Thursday and Saturday for previews and reviews of the League of Ireland action.