Thursday 14 November 2019

Team-by-team guide to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division

Dundalk players celebrate their League of Ireland triumph. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Dundalk players celebrate their League of Ireland triumph. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
It’s imperative that Towell continues to chip in with a good quota from the centre of the park
Keith Fahey was the marquee move by Fenlon and if he is in full flow they will dominate midfield
Karl Sheppard is another off-season recruit who has moved south from Shamrock Rovers in search of a fresh start.
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

BOHEMIANS: Manager: Keith Long - Earned a crack at this gig after impressing in Athlone's doomed attempt to avoid relegation. Will come under fiercer scrutiny here.

Last Year: 7th

Winter Business: Dinny Corcoran, Eoin Wearen, Steven Beattie and Kevin Devaney followed Owen Heary to Sligo and they leave a big void. Long has brought four from Athlone and defender Derek Prendergast will be important. Dean Kelly's arrival from Shamrock Rovers is also significant.

Key Man: Jason Byrne - The veteran will not play every week but with a renewed focus to chase Brendan Bradley's record, he remains a valuable asset in a league which lost some poachers over the winter

Verdict: 6th

BRAY WANDERERS

Manager: Alan Mathews - Starting his second campaign in Wicklow, the fifth club that he has managed in his long association with the league.

Last Year: 10th

Winter Business: Speculation about off-field issues dominated discussion but under new ownership they've recruited a blend of youth and experience. Alan McNally's addition from Drogheda will boost them defensively but Jake Kelly's departure for Dundalk is a negative for them.

Key Man: David Cassidy - The attacking midfielder is comfortable on the ball and versatile too. An important cog in their wheel.

Verdict: 12th

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Karl Sheppard (Centre) celebrates with Simon Madden after scoring Shamrock Rovers second goal against Dundalk. Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
 

CORK CITY

Manager: John Caulfield - The City legend oversaw remarkable improvement last season as he motivated the Leesiders to jump from the pack to become contenders.

Last Year: 2nd

Winter Business: Liam Miller's capture grabbed the headlines and the addition of Alan Bennett to the fold added further international experience. Gavin Holohan is a talented midfield option who shone at Drogheda.

Key Man: Karl Sheppard - Another off-season recruit who has moved south from Shamrock Rovers in search of a fresh start. Caulfield needs him to fire this season.

Verdict: 4th

DERRY CITY

Manager: Peter Hutton - Local man took the reins when Roddy Collins' short-lived stint came to an abrupt end.

Last Year: 8th

Winter Business: Michael Duffy earned a dream switch to Celtic while Rory Patterson has taken a step back for some Australian sunshine. With Barry Molloy also departing, Hutton is relying mainly on youth but he has also given the well-travelled Anthony Elding a new home.

Key Man: Patrick McEleney - He was on trial at Brentford and did well without securing a deal. Serious asset in what looks very much like a transitional year.

Verdict: Verdict: 7th

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Daryl Kavanagh rushes to join as Conan Byrne turns away to celebrate after scoring for St Patrick's Athletic's at Richmond Park
 

DROGHEDA UNITED

Manager: John McDonnell - Made the switch up the road from Shelbourne when Damien Richardson's time in Louth finished amid budgetary issues.

Last Year: 9th

Winter Business: A lot of changes with 'Fabio' O'Brien amongst the departures and Gavin Holohan a major loss. McDonnell knows the market and has taken a chance on Daryl Kavanagh while also bringing the savvy Alan Byrne and Sean Brennan back to the club.

Key Man: Sean Thornton - The highest profile arrival was tipped for stardom as a bleach blond teenager at Sunderland. Knocking about in Wales the past few years but there's still a lot of ability there if it can be drawn out.

Verdict: 11th

DUNDALK

Manager: Stephen Kenny.

Last Year: Champions

Winter Business: Kenny feared an exodus but managed to hold onto his title heroes apart from Pat Hoban who accepted a good deal at Oxford. He couldn't find a striking replacement but Ronan Finn brings star power to midfield while Gary Rogers replaces Peter Cherrie between the sticks.

Key Man: Richie Towell - Could also select Stephen O'Donnell here but given the loss of Hoban, it's imperative that Towell continues to chip in with a good quota from the centre of the park. Can still improve.

Verdict: 2nd

GALWAY UNITED

Manager: Tommy Dunne - The Dubliner brought Cork back to the Premier Division after they started from scratch in Division One and he repeated the feat at the first attempt with Galway last term.

Last Year: 3rd First Division (promoted via playoffs)

Winter Business: Bringing in Sam Oji from Limerick was a welcome piece of news defensively given that Paddy Barrett has upped sticks for Dundalk. Ryan Manning's inevitable emigration to QPR leaves big shoes to fill.

Key Man: Ryan Connolly - The ex-Sligo man makes things happen in the centre of the park and was the driving force in the successful attempt to reach this stage.

Verdict: 10th

LIMERICK

Manager: Martin Russell - The goalposts have moved a little since Russell took the reins with a delay at Markets Field and a budget cut making for a difficult pre-season.

Last Year: 6th

Winter Business: Alarming period for their followers with Rory Gaffney setting sail for Cambridge, Barry Ryan retiring and the club not retaining a number of other capable sorts. Russell has used the Belfield connection with Paul O'Conor in from Sligo and Ryan replaced by ex-UCD 'keeper Conor O'Donnell.

Key Man: Shane Duggan - The local lad has endured a few injury problems but is a very good player with a clear run.

Verdict: 9th

LONGFORD TOWN

Manager: Tony Cousins - After a few near misses, he got Longford across the line last term and now the challenge is stabilise in the top flight

Last Year: First Division Champions

Winter Business: Kept hold of the high-calibre players that really had to deliver last year so it'll be a similar formula. Mark Rossiter and Conor Powell bring more know-how to the rearguard.

Key Man: David O'Sullivan - A goalscoring revelation in the First Division, he must now prove he can cut it at this level. His profile will surge if he does.

Verdict: 8th

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Keith Fahey was the marquee move by Fenlon and if he is in full flow they will dominate midfield
 

SHAMROCK ROVERS

Manager: Pat Fenlon - No surprise when the Hoops turned to the lifelong fan when they parted company with Trevor Croly last season. His reputation brings pressure to deliver quick results.

Last Year: 4th

Winter Business: Another club on the striker hunt and much will rest on the success of Danny North, Mikey Drennan and Gareth McCaffrey. With Finn and Sheppard gone, Gary McCabe is last link from 2011 Europa League run.

Key Man: Keith Fahey was the marquee move by Fenlon and if he is in full flow they will dominate midfield with Stephen McPhail, Pat Cregg and the Brennan brothers as support.

Verdict: 3rd

SLIGO ROVERS

Manager: Owen Heary - After a playing career based in north Dublin, Heary has relocated to Sligo to take the next step on his managerial journey. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Last Year: : 5th

Winter Business: On top of bringing a Bohs crew, Heary shopped abroad for a striker and got ex-Chelsea man Morten Nielsen. Ryan Coulter, son of Phil, is their new netminder after winning admiration at Athlone. Keith Ward, who was unlucky at Dundalk, brings midfield trickery.

Key Man: David Cawley - The Mayo man is underrated, an energetic presence that can burst from deep and pose problems in the opposition area. Heary has options in this area with Wearen a fine player

Verdict: 5th

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC

Manager: Liam Buckley - His legacy is assured after ending the cup famine at the Aviva. The Saints will continue to play a positive brand of football.

Last Year: 3rd

Winter Business: Aside from losing Fahey, the Saints have retained the services of their FAI Cup history-makers with Ciaran Kilduff bringing an extra option in attack and Jason McGuinness bolstering the back four. Sean Hoare's proposed switch to Hull didn't happen.

Key Man: Christy Fagan - Could the signing of the season be a re-signing? The league's top scorer spurned Chesterfield and Tallaght to stay put and, with all the other contenders searching for a prolific front man, Buckley was a step ahead.

Verdict: 1st

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