Saints relief as clubs prepare for upheaval
St Patrick's Athletic captain Ian Bermingham was ready for a holiday after his side confirmed their escape from relegation on Friday.
The left-back has not enjoyed a campaign littered with uncertainty and admitted to suffering a sleepless night before the 1-1 draw with Derry City that the Dubliners needed to be guarantee their top flight status.
"We've won a league, an FAI Cup and a couple of League Cups and if we had got relegated that would have all gone out the window, nobody would have remembered us for that," said Bermingham.
"I would have been the first captain to get the club relegated. There was so much stress over the season so I'm delighted because I can relax, go on holiday and see what happens because this is the toughest season I've had."
The reality for top flight managers, however, is that the end of the campaign coincides with the busiest period of the year. Bermingham paid tribute to Saints owner Garrett Kelleher on Friday, recalling seeing him in the stand after a game with Drogheda and realising just how much money he had put into the club and what survival meant to him.
Saints manager Liam Buckley gave Kelleher a hug in Buncrana, but they will have to talk seriously in the coming weeks regarding recruitment. It was mid-season investment from the owner that allowed Buckley to bring in senior players that steered them clear of danger.
The scramble for players accelerates now. Bermingham, the Saints longest serving player, is one of the first team performers that is out of contract and unsure of his future.
"I'm delighted for the fans," he said, "Players come and go. Some of us will stay, some of us will go. There's relief we got over the line and we'll just have to chalk it off and see what happens next year."
Buckley wants to stay and develop a team which has lost its way. "This year there has been too much chopping and changing," he said. "We want to get something settled, a settled way of doing things, a passing game.
But it's hard to find stability in this uncertain period. Derry City manager Kenny Shiels is in the middle of contract discussions with several key performers.
He will find it hard to hold onto some of his leading lights with Conor McDermott and Ronan Curtis attracting interest from overseas and Aaron McEneff on the radar too. Defender Aaron Barry is rated by Dundalk, while Barry McNamee will also be courted.
Shiels says that Derry don't have the spending power of Cork, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers and fears that budgetary issues will prevent him from being able to attract the in-demand players at Bray and relegated Galway that are likely to be available.
Galway have encountered some financial problems at the end of a challenging year - they had to sell key centre half Lee Grace to Shamrock Rovers in the summer - and falling through the trap door means they will be unable to keep Ronan Murray, Rory Hale and other leading assets.
Shiels would like to be in the frame but acknowledges the financial disparity in the division and that the loss of neighbours Finn Harps and said a relatively short trip to Drogheda will cost the Candystripes £30,000. He is against the cut to the ten team league.
"We can't give 52-week contracts," he said, "The top three are. Limerick will follow suit. Sligo, the big money people, St Pat's as well. I agree it's the proper professional way to do it but I don't think we can do that financially to be honest. I wish we could.
"Galway have really good players who will be cherry picked by the top three. There's three or four at Bray who will be cherry picked. We're not stupid, we know things will happen there and they've got to offload.
"Aaron Greene, Ryan Brennan, Gary McCabe, they'll go to the big fish and the big fish will get stronger. That's the way it is. Ronan Murray, he'll go to one of the big ones. That's the nature of the league. I suppose it's common sense isn't it?"