Sunday 25 September 2016

Team profiles

Published 01/03/2016 | 02:30

Players from each of the SSE Airtricity League Premier division teams are, from left: Ryan Connolly, Galway United, Derek Wilkinson, Finn Harps, Ryan McBride, Derry City, Kurtis Byrne, Bohemians, Kieran Saddlier, Sligo Rovers, John Dunleavy, Cork City, Stephen O'Donnell, Dundalk, Ger O'Brien, St Patrick's Athletic, Conor Kenna, Bray Wanderers, Conor Powell, Longford Town, Harry Cornally, Shamrock Rovers, and Graham Doyle, Wexford Youths FC, during the launch of the 2016 SSE Airtricity League at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Players from each of the SSE Airtricity League Premier division teams are, from left: Ryan Connolly, Galway United, Derek Wilkinson, Finn Harps, Ryan McBride, Derry City, Kurtis Byrne, Bohemians, Kieran Saddlier, Sligo Rovers, John Dunleavy, Cork City, Stephen O'Donnell, Dundalk, Ger O'Brien, St Patrick's Athletic, Conor Kenna, Bray Wanderers, Conor Powell, Longford Town, Harry Cornally, Shamrock Rovers, and Graham Doyle, Wexford Youths FC, during the launch of the 2016 SSE Airtricity League at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Bohemians: Last Season – 5th Manager: Keith Long Key arrivals: Some interesting additions to the attacking department with the enigmatic Mark Quigley joining ex-Dundalk man Kurtis Byrne and talented youngster Aymen Ben Mohamed who forged a decent reputation at Longford. It adds creativity to a resolute side.

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Key departures: Long has done very well to hold onto his main assets with his departures effectively impacting on the periphery of the squad. The exception is the uncertainty surrounding the intentions of the evergreen Dave Mulcahy who may yet sign on for another campaign.

Main man: Ismahil Akinade could make the headlines in 2016 but the all action approach of the versatile Roberto Lopes sums up the personality of a Bohs group that has come a long way on a tight budget.

Verdict: 6th. They should remain in the top half of the table again, although Long will have to cope with increased expectations brought about by his own success last year.

Bray Wanderers

Last Season – 8th

Manager: Mick Cooke

Key arrivals: Raised eyebrows in the off-season by getting to work early handing out long-term contracts to established pros from around the league. Conor Kenna, Michael Daly, Ryan Brennan and Dean Kelly are notable captures. Karl Moore, Robbie Creevy, Dylan Connolly and Mark Salmon have a lot to offer too.

Key departures: The squad has changed significantly with Cooke replacing the core of the 2015 group and Seagulls fans will miss the guile of David Cassidy who has decided to link up again with Alan Mathews at Athlone.

Main man: Ryan Brennan should stand out in his new surroundings having threatened to become a very good player for Shamrock Rovers but struggling to deliver in terms of consistency. Expect a big season from the Drogheda native.

Verdict: 8th. The instability off the park last term plants a seed of doubt despite the quality of the squad. It wouldn’t be a major surprise if they challenged for top six but our call is that they fall short.

Cork City

Last Season – 2nd

Manager: John Caulfield

Key arrivals:  Caulfield has boosted his squad with Greg Bolger and Kenny Browne bringing title-winning pedigree from St Pat’s, Gearoid Morrissey back from England and Ian Turner, Sean Maguire and Stephen Dooley landing with a point to prove. Celtic’s Eoghan O’Connell is an intriguing loan arrival.

Key departures:  Liam Miller has headed off to the US after an unremarkable year and the retirement of Dan Murray could have a bigger impact on the group. The Dennehy brothers Billy and Darren have also packed their bags.

Main man:  Danny Morrissey is a familiar presence in injury bulletins but if the striker could stay fit then he has the attributes to be a gamechanger. There is a gap in the league for a front man to come along and really make a name for himself.

Verdict: 3rd. They will be a popular pick but it’s hard to win a league with so many alterations to the spine of the team.

Derry City

Last Season – 7th

Manager: Kenny Shiels

Key arrivals:  The appointment of Northern Irishman Shiels, who has experience in Scotland, brings a fresh approach. His squad contains a sprinkling of newcomers but it’s the return of Rory Patterson from Australia that stands out.

Key departures:  There’s no escaping the fact that losing Patrick McEleney, Dooley and Mark Timlin has stripped the Brandywell dressing room of leading assets and they desperately need Patterson to pick up where he left off or else they are in danger of firing blanks.

Main man:  Barry McNamee was also linked with a move down south and keeping him on the books might well be the best thing that happened the Foylesiders during the off-season.

Verdict: 10th. There’s quite a few variables to consider with work on the Brandywell meaning that a move away for the business end of the season is likely. Flirtation with relegation is a very real possibility.

Dundalk

Last Season – Champions

Manager: Stephen Kenny

Key arrivals: McEleney and Robbie Benson have arrived from Derry City and UCD respectively and the technically comfortable pair should help the European challenge as well as the league campaign. Both were highly sought after by other suitors.

Key departures: The loss of Richie Towell has presented a straightforward question – how will the Louthmen cope without the midfielder who scored 29 goals in all competitions last term? It is a major test.

Main man: Daryl Horgan was also tipped from the exit door but he is a year younger than Towell and this is his chance to shine. The talented left winger has the explosive capability to move to another level this term. He has never gone across the water and retains the ambition to develop as a player.

Verdict: 1st. They have a settled side and a good attitude and, once they avoid injuries, they have the quality to make their own piece of history this year.

Finn Harps

Last Season – Promoted via play-offs

Manager: Ollie Horgan

Key arrivals: Harps boss Horgan has recruited a disparate group of players with ex-Derry players Ryan Curran, Sean Houston and Michael Rafter adding Premier League experience along with Dave Scully and Adam Hanlon who will travel from Dublin. Ex-Manchester United man Ryan McConnell trainee has commanded local interest.

Key departures: Derry tried to lure Josh Mailey away but Horgan has essentially managed to retain the players that he viewed as important in an attempt to consolidate at this level.

Main man: Curran showed promise at Derry and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the new responsibility allowed him to thrive.

Verdict: 12th. Horgan would probably enjoy this prediction seeing as he spent the final stretch of the promotion tilt pointing out that his troops were massive underdogs. The concern here is that too many of his recruits are gambles.

Galway United

Last Season – 10th

Manager: Tommy Dunne

Key arrivals: Dunne went to the FIFPRO tournament for out-of-work players in Norway and ended up recruiting player of the tournament Armin Aganovic, a Bosnian defender who grew up in Sweden and has made quite an impression on his new team-mates. Vinny Faherty (Limerick) and John Sullivan (Bray) add seniority to a youthful group.

Key departures: American striker Jake Keegan has gone back to North America to pursue his ambitions. Sam Oji has moved on with Aganovic set to come into central defence.

Main man: Playmaker Ryan Connolly is absolutely vital to the Tribesmen. They have goalscoring players at their disposal – Enda Curran warrants mention here – but they forge more openings when Connolly is available.

Verdict: 7th. They were part of the giant scrap to avoid the drop in 2015; there are reasons to believe this group can build on that to steer clear of trouble and get comfortable in this sphere.

Longford Town

Last Season – 6th

Manager: Tony Cousins

Key arrivals: Josh O’Hanlon’s arrival back on loan from Bournemouth is a source of curiosity. Cousins has freshened up his group and lowered the average age with Kealan Dillon (Bohemians), Lee Duffy (Drogheda), Peter McGlynn (Bray) and John McKeown (Cabinteely) standing out as signings that have scope to get better.

Key departures: The winter reshuffle included the retirement of Pat Sullivan and the decision to allow Stephen Rice go free. Cousins wanted to hold onto Gary Shaw and Ayman Ben Mohamed but the pull of Dublin was too strong.

Main man: The challenge for David O’Sullivan last season was to prove he could score in the Premier Division and seven was a reasonable tally. He is under pressure to increase the figure.

Verdict: 9th. Deserved greater recognition for their sixth-place finish as teams with deeper resources finished some distance behind. However, they face a stiffer test to stay in mid-table.

Shamrock Rvs

Last Season – 3rd

Manager: Pat Fenlon

Key arrivals: Fenlon wanted to bring pace to his side and Dean Clarke should bring that. Gary Shaw brings an imposing option to the front line, while his move for Killian Brennan divided opinions – the well travelled midfielder was not a fan favourite in his first stint at Tallaght.

Key departures: Conor Kenna and Ryan Brennan reached the end of the road in Dublin 24 while Damien Duff opted against one more year.

Main man: Brandon Miele deservedly collected the young player of the year award from his peers on account of the impact he made after coming home from Newcastle to rebuild his career in Ireland. The diminutive trickster hit double figures in his debut year and his star should continue to rise.

Verdict: 2nd. They fell below expectations in 2015 with 11 draws from 33 games telling its own story – they need to develop a clinical streak if they are to challenge Dundalk but their squad has a better profile now.

Sligo Rvs

Last Season – 9th

Manager: David Robertson

Key arrivals: Robertson, an ex-marine who briefly was in charge of Peterborough, is the latest manager to come across the water to The Showgrounds and the bulk of his shopping has focused on the UK. Kieran Sadlier, Philip Roberts and Jimmy Keohane have represented Ireland at underage level. Micheal Schlingermann takes over in goals after leaving relegated Drogheda.

Key departures: Alan Keane has retired after a good innings and the long serving David Cawley has gone to St Pat’s with Dinny Corcoran. Sander Puri and Morten Nielsen stayed for one year only.

Main man: Plausible that one of the newcomers will take the league by storm, yet the tried and trusted John Russell remains an accomplished player. A hip injury curtailed his involvement in a tumultuous campaign.

Verdict: 5th. A leap of faith but a full-time squad should be able to bounce back from an awful year and compete at a level which justifies the outlay.

St Patrick’s Athletic

Last Season – 4th

Manager: Liam Buckley

Key arrivals: They got to work early with the Dennehy brothers coming from Cork, Cawley and Corcoran hired from Sligo and Mark Timlin an eye catching capture from Derry. Graham Kelly and Michael Barker (Bray) and Dylan McGlade (Shelbourne) can step up while Buckley has taken a punt on Keith Treacy after his inglorious stint at Drogheda.

Key departures: The end of an era with several mainstays of a successful group saying goodbye. 2013 league winners Kenny Browne, Greg Bolger and Killian Brennan will be in rival colours while James Chambers is now plying his trade in America.

Main man: Christy Fagan is the favourite to be the top scorer and that’s based on the belief that he can make hay if he can steer clear of fitness problems. Treacy has the ability to shine but the proof will be in the pudding.

Verdict: 4th. Needed an injection of fresh blood and the settling in period could make this a transitional season. 

Wexford Youths

Last Season – First Division Champions

Manager: Shane Keegan

Key arrivals: Danny Ledwith knows what it takes in the Premier and Aidan Friel (Athlone) gets the opportunity to advance up a grade. In Wexford, the talking point is the addition of local legend Paul Murphy – he was at Ipswich as a teenager but struggled with homesickness.

Key departures: Keegan, the youngest boss in the top flight, has kept hold of the main men behind their promotion.

Main man: Danny Furlong broke the all-time First Division scoring record by notching 30 goals and, while he didn’t set the world alight when he tried life in Cork for a short spell, Wexford’s survival hopes could rest on the homegrown star bringing his predatory habits to the top table.

Verdict: 11th.  They were back to pre-season work early and the stability in the dressing room in addition to the eagerness of a capable manager and squad give them a real squeak of keeping their head above water – even if it takes a play-off.

Irish Independent

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