League of Ireland First Division PreviewPosted: February 27, 2012
That week has arrived – your last week in work or school before the weekend that brings the first round of league fixtures with it. All football fans know the week. For League of Ireland fans, they can once again breathe the annual sighs of relief, knowing they’ll very soon be able to see their team in action again. The season 2012 is fast approaching, and with it comes the BOIP season previews! Here, Brendan White gives us his expert analysis to the new-look, 8-team First Division, while later on in the week we’ll have a bumper Premier Division Preview.
Odds-on favourites Limerick look the team to beat in this season’s First Division season as Pat Scully’s men look for promotion to the Premier Division. A team full of quality was added to over the pre-season with Stephen Bradley and Dominic Foley brought in to go alongside last season’s big name signings of Denis Behan and Joe Gamble.
With a squad of young and exciting players along with the experienced players, Limerick have a blend of players that would make most managers jealous. But with big players come big pressure; winning the league and promotion to the Premier Division is the sole objective for Pat Scully, anything less will be unacceptable on Shannonside. Prediction: 1st.
Longford Town and Waterford United look most likely to compete at the top end of the table and both would undoubtedly accept a play-off spot now if it were offered. Alan Kirby’s return to Flancare Park is a huge boost for the club after a season in Sligo last year. Karl Bermingham and Collie James have both joined from Shelbourne’s promotion winning squad last season and add more experience to the squad. Tony Cousins looks to have a squad capable of going places and a promotion spot is certainly within their grasp. Prediction: 2nd.
Waterford United’s big pre-season signing saw Gary Dempsey join the club having captained Bray Wanderers in the Premier Division in 2011. Dempsey will look to spearhead the Blues to promotion and the midfielder has admitted that promotion is a minimum for the club. John Frost and Packie Holden also return to the club to add experience to a young Blues squad.
Sean Maguire looks to be the one the Blues fans will look to for inspiration after a recent trial at Sunderland saw the Under-19 star grab a goal. Goals were a problem for the team last season and manager Paul O’Brien needs a good start this season. Prediction: 3rd.
Outside the top three, it’s anybody’s game. Mervue United have held on to a lot of their squad and have added some experience and should be better for their last few seasons in the league. The addition of Stephen Walsh, Gary Kelly and Alan Murphy from Galway United are a great boost to the squad as they look to progress in the League of Ireland. Prediction: 4th.
Finn Harps have added Chris Breen and have kept hold of Kevin McHugh as they look to improve on last season’s finish. Peter Hutton will look to use his experience in the league and use that to his team’s advantage. Prediction: 5th.
Wexford Youths’ new boss Shane Keegan has instilled belief in his players and the word around Ferrycarrig Park during pre-season has been nothing but positive. Keegan’s aim is promotion in a few years but a good start this season and anything can happen. Holding on to striker Danny Furlong could be a masterstroke; his goals will be vital to any Youths progress. The loss of three, including keeper Packie Holden, to neighbours Waterford United should add more rivalry when they meet on opening night in Ferrycarrig Park. Prediction: 6th.
Athlone Town boss Mike Kerley has used his Limerick links once again and has added centre-back Brian McCarthy to his squad. Kerley has held onto most of last season’s squad but has brought in some exciting junior league players to help move Athlone up the First Division table. Prediction: 7th.
The newly rebranded Salthill Devon Galway will look to forget last season and aim to progress up the First Division table. Tony Mannion is the man in charge as the club switch their home games to Terryland Park following the exit of Galway United from the grounds. Prediction: 8th.
Written by Brendan White.