The Great Big LOI Season Preview – Premier, Part IIPosted: February 29, 2012
The season previews continue with the second installment of what we’re hoping to be some of the most in-depth analysis looking ahead to the League of Ireland 2012. Here, we examine Drogheda United, Dundalk, Monaghan and Shamrock Rovers.
Drogs fans certainly have a little more to be optimistic about heading into the new season. Mick Cooke joined them just before the start of the 2011 campaign and had little time to prepare with the team he had inherited, but this year is completely different. To go along with last year’s squad, Cooke has signed a number of players from his old side Monaghan United.
Three of the Brennan brothers in the League of Ireland will line up in Drogs colours – Seán, Ryan and Gavin. Two of whom, Ryan and Seán, are newly signed from Mons. All three midfield-line players have good quality, who will no doubt boost Drogheda’s chances of staying up and perhaps fighting for a comfortable mid-table position. To go along with these, Declan O’Brien returns to the club that he enjoyed many happy years at between 2002 and 2008. Paul Crowley will also sure up the midfield, after the 31 year-old signed from St. Patrick’s Athletic.
On the down side, Lee Lynch and Dinny Corcoran will be missed by The Boynesiders. Lynch signed for title-hopefuls Sligo Rovers while Corcoran has moved to Bohemians.
Nevertheless, 2012 offers the fans of Drogheda something they haven’t felt for several years now – hope. Drogheda are one of many clubs struggling with financial issues, and since their league title win in 2007, almost every season since then has just been leaps backwards. Had it not been for a shambolic Galway United team last term, Drogheda would have almost certainly been relegated, especially after the terrible start to the season last year, going their first 14 games without victory.
As this season comes ever closer, however, Drogheda look to be in a stronger position than a number of other clubs in the league.
Key Talking Point: Will the eight acquisitions from First Division football last season be able to step up to the challenge of the Premier?
– Cillian Shields
After a hugely disappointing 2011 season, Dundalk has seen a lot of change during the off season with a new manager which they hope will also change their fortunes.
With Ian Foster’s two year reign brought to an end not 24 hours after last season ended, it was obvious the board were desperate for a quick change. After rumours of Steve Staunton and Julian Dicks, they eventually appointed Seán McCaffrey.
Seán has wasted no time in building his squad, and could have a strong centre back partnership in Derek Foran and Liam Burns, but replacing players such as Simon Madden, Mark Quigley and Jason Byrne with players of equal quality was always going to be a massive challenge. It is a young squad in general, but the manager has vast experience in managing young sides having took charge of under-age Ireland sides between from 2003 to 2010.
He has an eye for young, talented players, so it would come as no surprise to see a few unheard of players in his squad to go on and catch the eye of League of Ireland fans across the country.
Ultimately, Dundalk will probably finish up in the bottom half of the table as their youth and inexperience shows against other teams, but they should have enough about them avoid relegation.
– Alan Finn
When Roddy Collins pitched up in Ulster at the start of last season, many wondered if it was typical Roddy. Many suggested that he wouldn’t see out the summer in Monaghan but it is now spring 2012 and Roddy is back in the big time. He got the Mons promoted in his first season via the play offs against Galway United. When Pat Fenlon left Bohemians in December, there was a huge clamour from the Dalymount faithful that Collins returned to the job that he occupied so successfully at the start of the Millennium. However, for perhaps the first time in his career he stayed loyal and is now looking at consolidating Monaghan as a Premier Division side.
However, to do this, he will have to perform some magic. The side which got promoted last season has already been stripped and shaken to the core. Former manager Mick Cooke decided to raid his former club and then proceed to take 5 key players from the side to Drogheda. As it happens, Drogheda will be one of the teams fighting with The Mons for survival, so time will tell if those players made a wise move.
To combat that loss, Roddy signed Robert Bayly from Bohemians after the youngster was released towards the end of last season. ‘Boccer’ was a bit of a fans favourite with Bohs after he left arch rivals Shamrock Rovers to join them. A string of poor performances quickly made him lose his goodwill with the fans and many were not sorry to see the back of him. He will be hoping that he can perform better for his new club this season. Other players brought in have been Seán Maher, Chris Bennion and Conor Murphy. This could be Roddy’s last big shot at managing at the top level; he will hope to take full advantage of it.
Key Talking point: Can the loss of key players spur Monaghan onto to survival, or will the loss be too much for such a slim squad to take?
– Robert O’Reardon
Fresh from their record breaking run in Europe under Michael O’Neill, the reigning champions will be hoping to add a third consecutive league title to the trophy cabinet in Tallaght Stadium. After O’Neill was lured to Windsor Park to manage the Northern Irish national team, Rovers were forced to look around for their next manager. They chose the man to be Stephen Kenny who led Derry City to 3rd place last season.
As with the change of manager, there has also been a big change in the playing staff in Tallaght. Enda Stevens who impressed during the club’s run in the Europa League was snapped up by Aston Villa, Rohan Ricketts decided to end his stay in the country by returning to the UK to look for a new club, Pat Sullivan (who scored that memorable goal in Belgrade) and other first team players such as Karl Sheppard and Richard Brush have all decided to move onto new pastures.
However, it’s not all been doom and gloom for the champions. Killian Brennan, who spent the previous four seasons at fierce rivals Bohemians, was snapped up on a free transfer from the debt ridden club. Daryl Kavanagh was signed from South Dublin Rivals St. Patrick’s Athletic and former Arsenal youth sensation Kerrea Gilbert was signed from Yeovil Town.
The main aim this season will be to retain their title. The run in Europe last year was amazing, however the consensus is that they will find it very hard to repeat. Who knows, a run to the final qualifying round of the Champions League is not out of the question, where there will be a chance of a glamour tie against a European Football giant.
Key Talking Point: Will Rovers be able to recreate their heroics in Europe next season, or was last year just a freak result for Irish clubs in Europe?
– Robert O’Reardon