Football Season Guide

Bohemians

In


Jonathan Lunney (def) (St.Patricks), Cristian Magerusan (att) (Lucan), Kevin Devaney (mid) (Galway), Ryan Swan (att) (Cabinteely), Karl Moore (mid) (Bray), Daragh Leahy (def) (Coventry), Keith Buckley (mid) (Bray), Dylan Watts (mid) (Leicester - loan)

Out


Lorcan Fitzgerald(k) (def) (contract expired), Ismahil Akinade (sp) (att) (Waterford), Fuad Sule (r) (def) (Barnet), Dylan Hayes (sp) (def) (Bray), Warren O'Hora (r) (def) (Brighton), Eoin Wearen (sp) (def) (Limerick)

Bohemians are coming from a season in which defied expectations, as they were widely expected to battle against the drop, but were never under genuine threat of going down and even flirted with European places at times. The Bohs are known as well-run club that is not too well-off financially and the winter that is behind them was pretty much normal business resuming for them, as they once again lost some important players in Lorcan Fitzgerald, Fuad Sule and the promising Warren O'Hora. However, in Keith Long, they have a rather experienced manager who is Shrews in the transfer market, and the Bohs have brought in a mixture of promise and proven Premier League quality - they have two men from Bray coming in in Karl Moore, have completed the capture of Kevin Devaney, who impressed despite suffering relegation with Galway, and also signed Daragh Leahy from Coventry, who is expected to become a regular in defence. When looking at their squad player by player, the Bohs look like potential relegation candidates and certainly a lot depends on how their new back four will function. However, Long has a track record of getting his side to punch above their weight and will once again be expected to do the same.

Target


An improvement on their last season's results looks unlikely. They would be happy to finish inside the lower midtable places.

Bray Wanderers

In


Dave Mackey (manager), Dylan Hayes (def) (Bohemian), Paul O'Conor (mid) (St.Patricks), Sean Heaney (def) (Shamrock), Eric Donnelly (gk) (St.Patricks), Rhys Gorman (def) (Longford), Cory Galvin (mid) (Cabinteely), Daniel McKenna (mid) (Wolves - loan), Ronan Couglan (att) (free)

Out


Harry Kenny (manager), Ryan Brennan (r) (mid) (St.Patricks), Anto Flood (r) (att) (Sheriff YC), Tim Clancy (sp) (def) (retired), Karl Moore (r) (mid) (Bohemians), Jason Marks (sp) (mid) (St. Mochta's), Keith Buckley (r) (mid) (Bohemians), Peter Cherrie (r) (gk) (Cork), Lee Steacy (sp) (gk) (Shelbourne)

The 2017 was a turbulent one for Bray, who looked like strong European candidates early on, only for things to turn sour due to financial problems that the club was facing. The entire squad even transfer-listed themselves at one stage, but the Wanderers managed to finish the season away from danger and avoid losing most of their key players, with a notable exception being Dylan Connolly, who joined Dundalk midway through the campaign. However, the inevitable has happened this winter, as the Wanders lost a number of important players, such as Peter Cherrie, Karl Moore, Keith Buckley, Ryan Brennan and Antonio Blood. However, they did manage to keep hold of Gary McCabe. The attacking midfielder, who scored fourteen goals last season, will be their new captain. Bray also start the new season with a new manager in charge. Harry Kenny announced that he would leave the club with a month of the previous season to spare and the Wanders have named Dave Mackey their new manager. Mackey spent five years at the club in various roles between 2008 and 2013 but this will be first spell as a Premier League manager. Given the club's financial situation, it is hardly a surprise that the Wanderers went for other clubs' unwanted players during the winter. They have brought in a number of new players, none of who are proven Premier League regulars and their squad definitely looks weaker than it was last time around. Even Mackey admitted, in a recent interview, that it will be hard to get back the momentum that Bray had early in the previous season and it pretty much seems that everyone at the club are prepared for a season of hardship.

Target


With a squad that has been getting gradually and gradually worse over the recent months and with an inexperienced manager, the Wanderers will be pleased if they manage to escape the drop this time around.

Cork City

In


Tobi Adebayo-Rowling (def) (St.Patricks), Colm Horgan (def) (Galway), Barry McNamee (mid) (Derry), Josh O'Hanlon (att) (St.Patricks), Aaron Barry (def) (Derry), Graham Cummins (att) (St.Johnstone), Peter Cherrie (gk) (Bray), Danny Kane (def) (Huddersfield - loan)

Out


Greg Bolger (sp) (def) (Shamrock), Stephen Dooley (sp) (mid) (Coleraine), Achille Campion (sp) (att) (Linfield - loan), John Kavanagh (sp) (def) (Waterford - loan), Connor Ellis (sp) (def) (Limerick), Robbie Williams (sp) (def) (Limerick)

Cork are coming from a nearly perfect season, as they not only managed to end Dundalk's domestic dominance by winning the title, but also defeated the Lilywhites in the FAI Cup final to collect two of the three major domestic trophies. However, not all was well for John Caulfield's side in the latter stages of the previous season, as they pretty much won the title thanks to the huge lead that they accumulated in the first half of the season, but they struggled in the second half. What changed and caused Cork to start the struggle was the departure of star striker Sean Maguire to Preston, as it soon became apparent that Cork are a completely different side without the hitman, who ended the previous season as the Premier League top scorer despite leaving the club midway through. Given their status as champions, Cork were able to attract a number of star players of other Premier League clubs, but the man who will really be under the spotlight is Graham Cummins, who joins for his second spell at the club and will be expected to replace Maguire's goal output. With no important players leaving and several promising players signing, Cork once again look very strong. However, they did not look like a title-winning side in the second half of the previous season and a lot will come down to if some of their new signing will compensate for the sharpness that they lost with Maguire's departure.

Target


Their goal will be to retain the domestic title and enjoy a decent European campaign.

Derry City FC

In


Rory Hale (mid) (Galway), Gavin Peers (def) (St.Patricks), John Cofie (att) (free), Armin Aganovic (def) (Raufoss), David Hopkirk (att) (Dunfermline), Conor Agnew (mid) (free), Jamie McDonagh (def) (Sligo), Ronan Hale (att) (Birmingham - loan), Nicky Low (mid) (Dundee - loan)

Out


Barry McNamee (r) (mid) (Cork), Aaron Barry (r) (def) (Cork), Dean Jarvis (r) (def) (Dundalk), Sam Todd (def) (Finn Harps - loan)

Derry are coming from a decent season, which saw them win over a lot of neutrals with their positive football. It was the second consecutive year in which the Candystripes lost one of their players, as their skipper Ryan McBride passed away early in the season, with his team mates, who won their opening five games, struggling to cope with the loss early on and going on a lengthy unbeaten run before recovering and finishing high up the table. The Candystripes were victims of their own success in a way as they lost three of their standout performers in Barry McNamee, Aaron Barry and Dean Jarvis, who joined the league's twp top clubs in Dundalk and Cork. Kenny Shiels is known for liking to make puts on unproven signings and it is therefore hardly a surprise that the list of players who joined is composed of unproven Premier League players and men who never played in the top flight, with Gavin Peers and Armin Aganovic being notable exceptions, with the latter being a former Galway player returning to Ireland after a year in Norway. Derry have definitely lost some of their best players, but have made a number of interesting signings and, in Shiels, they have a manager who knows how to get the best out of what he has at his disposal.

Target


Derry finished the previous two campaigns inside the European places and will be hoping for the same this time around. A lot will depend on how the new signings will gel.

Dundalk

In


Pat Hoban (att) (free), Stephen Folan (def) (Galway), Dean Jarvis (def) (Derry), Ronan Murray (att) (Galway), Karolis Chvedukas (mid) (Suduva), Krisztian Adorjan (mid) (Novara - loan), Ross Treacy (gk) (free)

Out


Paddy Barrett (sp) (def) (Cincinnati), Shane Grimes (sp) (def) (contract expired), Ciaran O'Connor (sp) (att) (contract expired), David McMillan (r) (att) (St.Johnstone), Niclas Vemmelund (r) (def) (contract expired), Tommy Stewart (sp) (att) (Larne FC), Patrick McEleney (k) (mid/att) (Oldham)

Dundalk had their three-year dominance ended last year, as they were beaten to the title by Cork. Their rivals looked like an unstoppable force early on and, despite being the better side in the second half of the season, the Lilywhites were left with too much to do to win the title. Stephen Kenny has gotten used to losing some of his best players during winter breaks and this one was no different, as the likes of Patrick McEleney, Nclas Vemmelund and David McMillan have all left the club. However, Kenny was hardly content to sit with his hands crossed and watch his side decline and has brought in proven Premier League quality in Stephen Folan, Dean Jarvis and Ronan Murray, but has also taken risks on some unproven players such as Karolis Chvedukas and Krisztian Adorjan. Recent history has shown that Dundalk were more reliant on the system that they use than on any individuals and the Lilywhites have managed to rebuild after losing key players time and time again. The fans will be hoping that Kenny will once again manage to successfully get new signings to gel.

Target


Dundalk will be aiming to regain the title that they lost last season. They were the best side in the country by some margin in the later stages of the previous campaign but it remains to be seen if they can maintain that level following the changes they had.

Limerick

In


Tommy Barrett (manager), Cian Coleman (mid) (Cobh), Danny Morrissey (att) (Finn Harps), Daniel Kearns (mid) (Sligo), Connor Ellis (def) (Cork), Eoin Wearen (def) (Bohemians), Billy Dennehy (mid) (St.Patricks), Shaun Kelly (def) (Ballynanty), Mark O'Sullivan (att) (Waterford), Killian Cantwell (def) (Finn Harps)

Out


Neil McDonald (manager), John O'Flynn (sp) (att) (Finn Harps), Stephen Kenny (sp) (att) (released), Bastien Hery (r) (mid) (Waterford), Barry Cotter (r) (def) (Ipswich), Chiedozie Ogbene (r) (att) (Brentford)

Limerick are coming from a decent season of return to the top flight, as they managed to finish seventh. They had spells during which they looked capable of pushing for an European place as well as brief spells during which it seemed that they would battle against the drop, but spent the majority of the campaign around midtable and this is where they finished. There was obviously a feeling among the upper management that the Super Blues could deliver more than they did, given that they opted for a managerial change midway through the season and replaced Martin Russell with Neil McDonald, but the results did not really improve following the change. McDonald is no longer at the club, having left midway through December to become a part of the management staff at English League One side Scunthorpe. The Super Blues opted to promote from within and their new manager will be Tommy Barrett, who was in charge of their U19 side last season and has no previous Premier League experience. A few important players have left in the likes of Chiedozie Ogbene, Barry Cotter and Bastian Hery, but the list of arrivals also looks promising, with Danny Morrissey, Daniel Kearns, Connor Ellis and Billy Dennehy all being proven top flight quality. All in all, Limerick do not seem to be weaker than they were last season, but what is a problem for them is that there do not seem to be any obvious relegation candidates this time around.

Target


Given that they finished the previous season seventh out of nine teams that are still in the league and that they have a rookie manager in charge and have seemingly not really improved their squad, the Super Blues will do well to stay out of trouble.

Shamrock Rovers

In


Greg Bolger (def) (Cork), Ethan Boyle (def/mid) (Finn Harps), Ally Gilchrist (def) (St.Johnstone), Joel Coustrain (mid) (Ballynanty), Joey O'Brien (def) (free)

Out


Dave Webster (r) (def) (contract expired), Ryan Connolly (sp) (mid) (contract expired), Simon Madden (r) (def) (contract expired), James Doona (sp) (mid/att) (St.Patricks), Darren Meenan (sp) (mid) (Longford), Sean Heaney (sp) (def) (Bray), Aaron Dobbs (att) (Wexford - loan), Carmeron King (mid) (Lynn), Michael O'Connor (sp) (att) (Finn Harps - loan)

Shamrock are coming from a fairly successful season, having finished third in the league and enjoyed good runs in both domestic cup competitions. It would have been even better had they not lost to Dundalk in the final of the League Cup but, on overall, they did reasonably well. The Rovers had outside hopes of winning the league entering the previous season but that was never going to be possible following their rocky start. However, they got better over time and Stephen Bradley got them committed to playing an attacking brand of football and was spot on with most of the signings he made during the previous winter transfer window. This time around, Bradley has looked to reshape the one area of the team where his side were lacking at times last season, which is the defence. Dave Webster and Darren Meenan have left the club, but the likes of Greg Bolger and Ally Gilchrist have joined, while versatile ex-Finn Harps man Ethan Boyle is a very promising player who can also play at the back. Obviously, the Rovers are going from stability and have not changed too much compared to last season. They will have a new back line in the new campaign and, if their new defence works better than the old one did, Shamrock might have a genuine change of breaking Cork and Dundalk's duopoly.

Target


A repeat of last season's third place finish will be their minimum target. They look like the only side, other than Cork and Dundalk, with anything resembling a realistic chance of winning the title.

Sligo Rovers

In


Caolan McAleer (mid) (Finn Harps), David Cawley (mid) (Galway), Adam Wixted (mid) (Drogheda), Adam Morgan (att) (Halifax), Eduardo Pincelli (mid) (Ethnikos), Alistair Roy (att) (Hearts - loan)

Out


Tobi Adebayo-Rowling(k)(def)(Cork), Danny Kearns (sp) (mid) (contract expired), Omar Haughton (sp) (mid) (contract expired), Chris Kenny (sp) (mid) (contract expired), Mick Leahy (r) (def) (St.Patricks), Jamie McDonagh (r) (def) (Derry), Chris Kenny (sp) (mid) (Wexford)

Given that as many as three of the twelve sides that were in the Premier League last season were relegated due to the restructuring of the top flight, Sligo were one of the sides that were happy to just finish fourth from bottom. They struggled initially, but things improved following the arrival of Gerard Lyttle, who made them a formidable home team and guided them to safety. The winter break that is now behind us saw the Rovers lose their arguably most important player in Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, who joins from Cork, while another regular member of the back four has left in Mick Leahy, who is now at St.Patricks. However, Lyttle, who took over two months into the previous season, has now had a chance to make the squad his own and has brought in three players who impressed for relegated sides in Caolan McAleer, David Cawley and Adam Wixted, while the likes of Adam Morgan, Eduardo Pincelli and Alistair Roy sign from abroad. What is noticeable from a mere look at their list of transfers is that the Rovers were not looking to replace the departed defenders and instead brought in new firepower. This is quite interesting, given that their survival last season was built around their defensive record, given that they conceded the least number of goals out of all sides in the bottom half and also conceded less than some of the top half teams. Whether this transfer activity means that the Rovers are looking to make a transition to a more attacking style remains to be seen.

Target


After flirting with relegation during the majority of the previous season, Sligo will be hoping for a less tense campaign this time around. A lower midtable finish will be the target.

St Patricks Athletic

In


Ryan Brennan (mid) (Bray), Dean Clarke (def) (Limerick), Thomas Byrne (att) (Drogheda), Simon Madden (def) (Shamrock), James Doona (att) (Shamrock), Kevin Toner (def) (Aston Villa), Mick Leahy (def) (Sligo), Jake Keegan (att) (Edmonton)

Out


Josh O'Hanlon (r) (att) (Cork), Jonathan Lunney (sp) (def) (Bohemians), Gavin Peers (r) (def) (Derry), Kurtis Byrne (sp) (att) (Linfield), Jordi Balk (r) (def) (Oss), Ciaran Kelly (sp) (def) (Drogheda), Rory Feely (sp) (def) (Waterford), Paul O'Conor (sp) (mid) (Bray), Billy Dennehy (sp) (mid) (Limerick), Eric Donnelly (sp) (gk) (Bray), Darren Dennehy (sp) (def) (Limerick)

St.Patrick's are coming from a difficult season that saw them escape relegation by the skin of their teeth, as they were under threat of going down until the very end of the campaign. While the Saints' disappointing league campaign in the 2016 season was somewhat masked by their League Cup win, there were no silver linings for them to take following the previous campaign and Liam Buckley has conducted a squad clearout during the summer. St.Patrick's did lose two important players in Josh O'Hanlon and Gavin Peers, who joined the likes of Cork and Derry, respectively, but they brought in a number of proven Premier League players in Ryan Brennan, Thomas Byrne, Simon Madden and Mick Leahy, while a lot will be expected from Kevin Tonner, who joins from English side Aston Villa and has experience on loan with several English lower league sides. Despite losing a couple of starters, St.Pats definitely look stronger than they were last season and their experienced manager will be confident that his side will do better than they did the last time around.

Target


After two consecutive seasons of disappointment, St.Pats will be expected to get back to their usual standards. A solid midtable finish and at least one decent cup run will be expected.

Waterford United

In


Bastien Hery (mid) (Limerick), Ismahil Akinade (att) (Bohemians), David Webster (def) (Shamrock), Niall Corbet (gk) (UCD), Gavan Holohan (mid) (Galway), Rory Feely (def) (St.Patricks), John Kavanagh (def) (Cork - loan), Stanley Aborah (mid) (free)

Out


David McDaid (sp) (att) (Larne), Aaron Drinan (sp) (att) (Ipswich), Mark O'Sullivan (r) (att) (Limerick), Shane O'Connor (sp) (def) (Longford), Jack Lynch (sp) (def) (Cobh)

Given the restructuring of the top flight, only one side was promoted from Division One to the top flight this winter, and Waterford are the side in question, having won the league by a margin of eight points. Promotion was a consequence of what was an excellent reason for the Blues, who were taken over by former Swindon chairman Lee Power at the beginning of 2017, with the businessman solving their financial problems and deciding to give Alan Reynolds his first bit of managerial experience. He was rewarded for his faith in the rookie manager, who will now have a chance to gain top flight experience as a manager after spending years as a player in the top tier. Waterford's financial power was there for all to see during the winter, as the Blues had no problems attracting proven Premier League players. Bastien Hery, Ismahil Akinade, David Webster, Gavan Holohan and Rory Feely were all regulars for their former sides last season, while the likes of Niall Corbet, John Kavanagh and Stanley Aborah are all also expected to see significant playing time. At the same time, no truly important players have left the club and it has been made abundantly clear that money will be available to spend on further signings, should Reynolds feel that the side is in need of strengthening.

Target


Waterford are back into the top flight after a decade's absence and, given their healthy financial position, enter the campaign with plenty of optimism. They will be expected to finish inside the midtable places.