SSE Airtricity League Premier Division 2018 Preview

In the spring a young Irishman’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of football.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson is probably due an apology and in truth most Irish football fans have more interest in the game in Tennyson’s home country.

For a small but growing band of devotees the SSE Airtricity League returns at the weekend.

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The omens for this season are positive give crowds were up 25% in 2017 according to a survey on

Cork City accounted for much of the increase and their march to the title also saw them pull in the biggest crowds.

Meanwhile, football in the capital saw healthy increases despite little improvement on the pitch for the three Premier sides – Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Saint Patrick’s Athletic.

The opening night Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers derby sold out two weeks in advance, and social media includes messages from English and German fans looking for tickets.

Bohemians also tweeted a video encouraging fans to experience a live game which has proved very popular.

The Premier Division has been reduced to ten teams making it extremely competitive and the four European places will be much sought after, although the current incumbents are likely to be favoured again.

The title race should again be between Cork City and Dundalk.

At the other end of the table Limerick and Bray Wanderers will be hoping to avoid the dreaded drop to the First Division.

2018 predictions

Bohemian FC

Manager: Keith Long

Bohs continue to punch above their financial weight. Faud Sule and Izzy Akinade will be missed but Keith Long’s side should avoid the drop.

Key Signings: Keith Buckley, Kevin Devaney, JJ Lunney, Darragh Leahy, Cristian Magerusan, Karl Moore, Ryan Swan, Dylan Watts (loan)

Star Player: Dinny Corcoran

Prediction: 7th

Bray Wanderers FC

Manager: Dave Mackey

Bray’s issues off the pitch may have been exaggerated. However, survival will be their target.

Key Signings: Paul O’Conor, Sean Heaney, Darragh Gibbons, Dylan Hayes, Jake Kelly, Dan McKenna (loan), Eric Donnelly, Cory Galvin, Rhys Gorman, Daniel Kelly

Star Player: Gary McCabe

Prediction: 10th

Cork City FC

Manager: John Caulfield

Retaining a title is traditionally much harder to do than winning one. Sean Magurie’s goals will be missed and Dundalk have strengthened but the title will stay on Leeside.

Key Signings: Barry McNamee, Aaron Barry, Graham Cummins, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Peter Cherrie, Danny Kane, Colm Horgan, Josh O’Hanlon

Star Player: Kieran Sadlier

Prediction: 1st

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Derry City FC

Manager: Kenny Shiels

The return to the Brandywell should offset the loss of key players.

Key Signings: Dapo Kayode, Armin Aganovic, Gavin Peers, Jamie McDonagh, Jamie McIntyre, John Cofie, David Hopkirk, , Rory Hale, Ronan Hale (loan)

Star Player: Conor McDermott

Prediction: 4th

Dundalk FC

Manager: Stephen Kenny

The title race should be a lot closer but Niclas Vemmelund and David McMillan will be missed. Key players are already struggling with injury and Cork may just edge it this year.

Key Signings: Stephen Folan, Ronan Murray, Patrick Hoban, Dean Jarvis, Ross Treacy, Karolis Chvedukas, Krisztian Adorjan (loan)

Star Player: Sean Gannon

Prediction: 2nd

Limerick FC

Manager: Tommy Barrett

A turbulent close season means survival is probably the limit of the club’s ambition. Chiedozie Ogbene, Barry Cotter and Bastien Hery will be missed from the weakened squad that finished 2017.

Key Signings: Darren Dennehy, Billy Dennehy, Eoin Wearen, Cian Coleman, Shaun Kelly, Daniel Kearns, Conor Ellis, Mark O Sullivan, Danny Morrissey, Kilian Cantwell.

Star Player: Shane Duggan

Prediction: 9th

Saint Patrick’s Athletic FC

Manager: Liam Buckley

Pat’s have signed well and should not have to worry about relegation this time.

Key Signings: Simon Madden, Kevin Toner, Ryan Brennan, James Doona, Dean Clarke, Michael Leahy, Thomas Byrne, Jake Keegan

Star Player: Christy Fagan

Prediction: 5th

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Shamrock Rovers FC

Manager: Stephen Bradley

The country’s richest and most successful club may just miss out on the top two but with a bit of luck could end their 31-year wait for an FAI Cup win.

Key Signings: Ethan Boyle, Greg Bolger, Daniel Carr, Ally Gilchriest, Joel Coustrain, Joey O’Brien

Star Player: Brandon Miele

Prediction: 3rd

Sligo Rovers FC

Manager: Gerard Lyttle

The Bit O’Red just held off Galway to avoid the drop but did seem to improve through the season under Lyttle. They should do enough to survive again this year.

Key Signings: Adam Morgan, Eduardo Pincelli, David Cawley, Caolan McAleer, Lewis Morrison, Adam Wixted, Alistair Roy (loan)

Star Player: Rhys McCabe

Prediction: 8th

Waterford FC

Manager: Alan Reynolds

Newly promoted Waterford have received serious financial investment since Lee Power took control. Consolidation in mid-table will be the minimum requirement and that should be achieved comfortably.

Key Signings: Niall Corbet , Gavan Holohan, Stanley Aborah, Rory Feely, John Kavanagh, David Webster, Bastian Hery, Faysel Kasmi, Izzy Akinade

Star Player: Bastian Hery

Prediction: 6th

The Author

Gary Spain

Limerick born, Dublin based fan of Limerick FC and the Republic of Ireland national team. Gary has a keen interest in football across the island of Ireland and worldwide. He is a contributor to the Republic of Ireland and Limerick FC programmes and to Northern Ireland Football magazine.

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