When the former Bohemians and Shelbourne boss was appointed as Hibernian manager in November 2011 the club were in a desperate position nearing the half-way point of their season. He was initially left to work with a squad of players which had been assembled by previous manager, Kevin Calderwood, thus making a slow start, taking just one point from his opening five league games. The following January, Felon took the opportunity to revamp his struggling squad adding key players such as now captain, James McPake. Hibs reached the SFA Cup Final the following May but were trumped by rivals Hearts 5-1 in the final, the hurt of which still lingers today. Ultimately Fenlon managed to keep the Hibees in the SPL having found his squad floundering in second-last when he arrived and began to build for his first full campaign adding no less than 10 new players to his squad.
With only days remaining to the League of Ireland 2013 season, Alan Finn, Kevin Galvin, and Robert O’Reardon, continue their three-part preview. In this piece, they look at Drogheda United, who finished last season in an incredibly-impressive second place, Dundalk, who almost went bust in the middle of last season but are now back with a good squad and new manager Stephen Kenny, Limerick FC, who boast by far the most impressive stadium in the league and will provide many talking points, and Shamrock Rovers, who’ve again made their off-season marquee signings and will be hoping for a much improved season after last season’s awful display.
Last season was a fairy tale for Drogheda United. At the start of the year, they were tipped as relegation candidates, by the end of October they were runners up in the League, EA Sports Cup title holders and secured a place in next season’s Europa League. Mick Cooke goes into the season having retained the bulk of his squad and has made a few additions to his squad, most notably the highly rated Paul O’Conor from UCD. Should he click with influential captain Eric Foley, the Drogs midfield will be a joy to watch next year. I think Drogheda will enjoy another impressive League campaign and I can see them winning one Cup competition again.
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After narrowly missing out on a Setanta Cup place on the last day of last season, the aim for Aaron Callaghan’s side will surely be to go one better this season. Like the previous two seasons at Dalymount Park, a lack of finances has frustrated whoever the manager has been as they attempted to attract players to the club. But, what has been different from the previous two seasons is that there hasn’t been a mass exodus of players and the former Crusaders manager will have the majority of last season’s squad to work with.
There have been some departures, however. Last season’s excellent centre back partnership have decided to move on to new pastures with Evan McMillan heading west to join champions Sligo Rovers and Kevin Feely heading across the Irish sea to join Charlton Athletic.
Stephen Paisley has been brought in to replace them and strikers Chris Lyons and Darragh Hanaphy have been recruited to help ease the goal scoring burden which was a main problem for the Gypsies last season. If they carry their 100% pre season record into the new season then you wouldn’t bet against Aaron Callaghan and his boys breaking into the top four this season.
The general consensus is that League of Ireland football is in a completely different world to its English counterpart. The multi-millionaires playing in front of 40,000 people per week is in complete contrast to semi-professionals and amateurs playing in the Brandywell or the Carlisle Grounds on a Friday evening in front of small but passionate crowds. But, as you drop down the leagues in the UK, clubs from League 1 down face the same problems. Many people would rather sit on their sofas than attend a game of football and it is having a huge negative effect on the grassroots of the game.
To combat this, Non League Day was formed 2 years ago to breathe life into the terraces of lower league football in England. This year’s edition takes place the weekend of October 13th. It is based around an international break, so the people who would usually go to watch a Premier League/Championship game or who would be an armchair fan would be able to go to a football match at a discounted rate, and the aim is that hopefully they will come back. Even though it is in its early stages, it has been considered a huge success.
So, is it time for the FAI to buck the trend and do something worthwhile in regards to their national league or should the clubs themselves take this on?
‘The football is back!’ or so we are led to believe by most. Yes, the juggernaut that is the Premiership has returned for another season of ups and downs, twists and turns. Over the summer, while our own League of Ireland has seen the loss of a team, so called ‘barstoolers’ have been lamenting their own loss of a footballing fix. And now, as these fans have just recovered from the ‘Aguerroooooo!’ moment, both domestic divisions gear themselves up for a frenetic finish at either end, having already seen their own 94th minute title robbing goal in the shape of Graham Cummins in 2011.
Hannover 96, Germany
Stadium: AWD Arena (49,000)
Manager: Mircko Slomka
Colours: Red and partially white with black shorts
This is the second time St Patrick’s Athletic have visited Germany for European competition in four years, having narrowly lost out to Hertha Berlin in the 2009 edition of the competition. This time the Dublin outfit are really up against it, facing last year’s quarter-finalists Hannover 96.
Funnily enough though, Pats are vastly more experienced in Europe then their illustrious counterparts. Before last year, Hannover had never reached the group stage of any European competition! Hannover are playing the part of the minnows in a league of European superpowers like Bayern Munich and Broussia Dortmund.
So it’s to the third round of qualifying for the competition! Two more tie wins and the Europa League Group Stage beckons for these sides. St. Pats, who overcame IBV are playing, but first it’s to Sligo Rovers’ opposition, Spartak Trnava! This preview can also be seen here and was written by BOIP’s very own Alan Finn!
Name:FC Spartak Trnava
Stadium: Štadión Antona Malatinského (18,448)
Manager: Pavel Hoftych
Captain: Miroslav Karhan
Colours: Black and Red Stripes
Nickname: Bíli andeli (White Angels)
Based in a city 47 kilometers west of capital Bratislava, TSS Trvana were formed in 1923 after the merge of local clubs Šk Čechie and ČšŠk.
Trnava won their first major trophy, the Czechoslovakia Cup, in 1951, now under the name TJ Kovosmalt Trnava after being affiliated with a metal industry when the club went through a communist takeover.