This season will be a new start for Drogheda United with a lot of changes made on Boyneside since the defeat to Sligo Rovers in that dramatic FAI Cup Final back in November.
Last Season: 8th
2014 Odds: 50/1
Players In: Carl Walshe (Shelbourne), Paul Crowley (Shelbourne), Dave Ryan (Cork City), Philly Hughes (Shelbourne), Paul Andrews (Shelbourne), Daire Doyle (Bray Wanderers), Austin McCann (Glebe North), Ciarán McGuigan (last played in Sweden with Syrianska).
Players Out: Gabriel Sava (Dundalk), Philly Hand (Shelbourne), Derek Prendergast (Athlone Town), Alan Byrne (Athlone Town), Jason Marks (Athlone Town), Ryan Brennan (Shamrock Rovers), David Cassidy (Bray Wanderers), Paul O’Conor (Sligo Rovers), Peter Hynes (Longford Town), Graham Rusk (Athlone Town)
Opening Six League Games: Drogheda will start off the 2014 season with a Louth Derby at home to rivals Dundalk, followed up by an away game to Bohemians and Derry City at home. Limerick away on the 28th March will be followed by Mick Cooke’s return to United Park as Drogheda face Athlone Town before they make the trip to Sligo Rovers three days later.
The most significant change at Drogheda this season is that of the managerial change. Mick Cooke, who in the last two seasons guided the Boynesiders to four cup finals and back into European football, has now taken over the reigns at Athlone Town. Robbie Horgan, the man who has been Cooke’s number two at Drogheda since 2011 has taken over the helm at the Drogs and will have to do without the services of some players who have been key to their success in the last two seasons, most notably Ryan Brennan (Shamrock Rovers), Paul O’Conor (Sligo Rovers), Alan Byrne and last seasons captain Derek Prendergast who have both reunited with Cooke at Athlone.
Horgan has done very well to keep hold of some players who were with Drogheda last season such as Gavin Brennan who many thought would follow brother Ryan and leave his hometown club. Another key re-signing for Horgan was that of the player who the fans voted as their player of the season last season, hugely popular right back Mick Daly.
Brennan and Daly will again be key players for the Drogs this season as will the clubs all time leading goalscorer, Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien.
Players to watch
There are a few young players in the squad for the upcoming season and I think 24 year-old Eric Foley, who was very unlucky last season with injury could play a pivotal role for Drogheda this season. All Drogheda fans will know how good he is from a dead ball and he has scored some brilliant goals for the club already. Another player who I feel is one to watch is Gavan Holohan. The Kilkenny man is a former Hull City youth team captain and signed for Drogheda in August of last season before re-signing for the club under Robbie Horgan in November. He’s a player who a lot of League Of Ireland fans won’t have seen play yet but when he gets game time, which he should get a fair amount of this season, hopefully he will prove me right and show how good he is.
Horgan has signed 18 players for the 2014 season, back up for injuries and suspensions will come from the Drogs U-19 squad and a few players have already been dual-registered to both teams, left-sided midfielder Fionn Reilly and twin brothers Sean and Ciaran O’Connor being the first three.
Going by the players we have signed so far, I would say our strongest starting 11 would be: Schlingermann; Grimes, McNally, Andrews, Daly; Brady, Foley, Doyle, Brennan; Walshe, Fabio.
Robbie Horgan has not yet announced who will be captain but has been shifting the armband around to different players during pre-season. Mick Daly, Alan McNally, Gavin Brennan, Eric Foley and Paul Crowley have all worn the armband at some point. For me, I think Alan McNally is the man for the job with either Daly or Brennan as vice captain but all three are surely in contention for the role.