LEAGUE OF IRELAND

Premier Division - a club by club guide to the new season

A look at the 12 clubs who will contest the Premier Division

Diarmaid Doherty

Reporter:

Diarmaid Doherty

Email:

sport@donegaldemocrat.com

Premier Division - a club by club guide to the new season

Keith Cowan of Finn Harps, left, and Sean Maguire of Cork City, right, in attendance at the SSE Airtricity & FAI Photoshoot

Can Finn Harps survive the drop this season?

Who is best placed to challenge Dundalk for the title?

Diarmaid Doherty takes a look at the Premier Division's 12 clubs ahead of the new campaign

Bohemians

Ground: Dalymount Park
Manager: Keith Long
Last season: 8th
Squad changes: There's been a host of departures and new arrivals, so it's all change at Dalymount.
Keith Long has brought in, among others, Keith Ward (Derry City) and Kaleem Simon from Longford while Kurtis Byrne, Keith Buckley and Mark Quigley are the notable departures.
How will they do? There have been a lot of comings and goings within the first team squad at Phibsboro. Bohs struggled for much of last season and at one stage, looked to be struggling to move clear of the relegation zone. Might well struggle again this season.

Bray Wanderers
Ground: Carlisle Grounds
Manager: Harry Kenny
Last season: 6th
Squad changes: Aaron Green (Limerick) and Keith Buckley (Bohs) will be considered decent signings, as will Gary McCabe from Shamrock Rovers.
How will they do? Bray Wanderers were in real trouble last season and by June, were joint bottom with Longford Town. They made a managerial change, bringing in Harry Kenny. They would eventually finish an impressive sixth. The word is, the Wicklow club are much better set-up off the field this season and could well challenge for a European place.

Cork City
Ground: Turner’s Cross
Manager: John Caulfield
Last season: 2nd
Squad changes: Achille Campion has joined from Sligo Rovers and will be an ideal replacement for striker Mark O'Sullivan who has gone to Waterford. Conor McCormack (Derry City) is also a notable arrival.
A number of players have departed Turner's Cross, among them Danny Morrissey who has gone to Harps.
How will they do? It’s a big season for Cork. The FAI Cup winners laid down a marker for the new campaign by beating Dundalk so well in the President’s Cup final last weekend. Former Derry City player Conor McCormack is considered a good signing, but the fact that they have managed to retain the services of striker Sean Maguire is probably their best bit of business this year.

Derry City
Ground: Maginn Park (temporary)
Manager: Kenny Shiels
Last season: 3rd
Squad changes: There are several new arrivals. Mark Timlin is back from St. Pat's and this week Alon Netzer, a defender, has joined. However, they've lost a couple of very good players from last year's side.
How will they do? Derry City’s third place finish last season was one that few predicted. They also got to two cup semi-finals. Many will wonder if they can repeat that effort in the 2017 campaign. Kenny Shiels has lost Vemmelund (Dundalk) and McCormack (Cork City), two of his best performers last year. Derry’s players and their fans will also have to get used to the new surroundings of Maginn Park in Buncrana. A top six finish might have to suffice.


Drogheda United
Ground: United Park
Manager: Pete Mahon
Last season: Promoted from First Division
Squad changes: There are at least a dozen new signings at newly-promoted Drogheda United.
How will they do? Having come up from the First Division via the play-offs, Pete Mahon quickly moved to strengthen his squad by signing a number of new faces during the close season. Richie Purdy, Gareth McCaffrey, Killian Brennan and Gavin Brennan are players with bags of Premier experience and are among a host of new arrivals. Still, Drogheda have to be considered a good bet to go straight back down.


Dundalk
Ground: Oriel Park
Manager: Stephen Kenny
Last season: Premier Division champions
Squad changes: A lot of comings and goings at Oriel Park. Kenny has signed some decent players to replace those who have departed with former Celtic man, Michael Duffy, the most notable arrival.
How will they do? Stephen Kenny reckons his team are facing into their biggest test for several seasons. Will they have the hunger and desire to retain their league crown again? Will last year’s marathon season have taken too much out of his squad? Time will tell.

Finn Harps
Ground: Finn Park
Manager: Ollie Horgan
Last season: 10th
Squad changes: There are several new faces at Finn Park ahead of the new season with Paddy McCourt, Caolan McAleer and the two new strikers, Ciaran O'Connor and Danny Morrissey, the most notable signings.

How will they do? Ollie Horgan and his assistant, Paul Hegarty, love a challenge. The question is, is their team good enough to finish out of the bottom three? It’s a momentous test but it’s not beyond them. McCourt is a great signing, and Horgan has done well to bring in the other players he has. Sean Houston’s decision to stay on for another season will also be vital if Harps are to avoid the drop.

Galway United
Ground: Eamonn Deacy Park
Manager: Shane Keegan
Last season: 9th
Squad changes: There's a new manager in place, and he has overseen the arrival of a number of new players with Lee Grace (Wexford) and David Cawley (St Patrick's Athletic) among those to sign.
How will they do? Finn Harps fans will be looking at Galway as one of the teams that might well struggle this season. Shane Keegan was a controversial appointment as manager towards the end of last season. The former Wexford Youths boss failed to keep them up last year. Could lightning strike twice?

Limerick
Ground: Markets Field
Manager: Martin Russell
Last season: First Division champions
Squad changes: Limerick are another side who have moved to strengthen their squad ahead of the new campaign with Brendan Clarke (St Patrick's Athletic), Dean Clarke (Shamrock Rovers) and David O'Connor (Shamrock Rovers) just three of several new faces.
How will they do? Limerick spent just one season out of the top division, and returned in style as runaway First Division champions. They look well set-up to establish themselves as a top team in the Premier Division with considerable financial backing and a wonderful set-up at Markets Field. A top six finish is not beyond them.

Shamrock Rovers
Ground: Tallaght Stadium
Manager: Stephen Bradley
Last season: 4th
Squad changes: Ronan Finn is the big name addition to the Rovers squad but Ryan Connolly (Galway Utd) and Darren Meenan (Dundalk) are also notable arrivals.
How will they do? Rovers moved quickly to appoint interim boss Stephen Bradley on a permanent basis at the end of last season. He’s considered one of the brightest managerial prospects in the game and he has a quality squad at his disposal. They must be considered title-challengers.

Sligo Rovers
Ground: The Showgrounds
Manager: Dave Robertson
Last season: 5th
Squad changes: There will be plenty of interest in Donegal in how goalkeeper Shaun Patton and defender Kyle Callan-McFadden get on at The Showgrounds. The duo are among several new faces.
How will they do? Sligo Rovers enjoyed a difficult start last season and failed to win any of their first seven games. But once they got into their stride, they soon began to climb the table and a run of good results (including a 3-0 victory at Dundalk) saw them climb to fifth. Might be one of the sides who could struggle.

St. Patrick’s Athletic
Ground: Richmond Park
Manager: Liam Buckley
Last season: 7th
Squad changes: St. Pat's have snapped up the Shamrock Rovers pairing of Patrick Cregg and Barry Murphy while Kurtis Byrne from Bohs is another new arrival. Mark Timlin (Derry City) is among those to depart.
How will they do? St. Pat’s were a team that promised so much last season. So their fans will have been disappointed with their 7th place finish. They’ve lost a few decent players in the close season including Sean Hoare who has gone to Dundalk and Mark Timlin who has returned to Derry City. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that they’ve managed to hold on to Conan Byrne.


Keep up to date will all the Premier Division action this season on www.donegaldemocrat.com