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League of Ireland: 2017 preview and predictions

SSE Airtricity League

Winners: Dundalk

The four in a row is most definitely on for Dundalk this season. After a slow start, the transfer window has treated the Lilywhite’s kindly. While the losses of Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle and Ronan Finn will surely be hard felt, in the opposite direction Dundalk have brought in some real quality.

 

The acquisition of former Republic of Ireland underage international Conor Clifford will add creativity in the midfield, while signing of Celtic’s Michael Duffy will go a long way towards replacing the outgoings of several key players.

 

Dundalk raided St Patrick’s Athletic for the youthful duo of Jamie McGrath and Sean Hoare and another European expedition followed by league success looks likely for the Co. Louth outfit. Of the rest, Cork City will be keen to end their rivals recent success, while Shamrock Rovers will be strong, but I just can’t deny Dundalk a fourth, and historic title that will see them match the record of the great Shamrock Rovers team of the 1970’s.

 

European spots: Dundalk, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers, Bray Wanderers.

 

Table toppers Dundalk will claim the Champions League spot, I can see a vicious two way battle emerging between Shamrock Rovers and Cork City for the second berth.

 

Cork have re-signed several key players including Karl Shephard and most notably Sean Maguire. This firepower far outweighs Shamrock Rovers striking options and the Leesider’s will push Dundalk close for the title.

 

As an outside bet, I’m choosing Bray Wanderers for the final European spot. The Seagulls have re-signed one of the league’s best players in Dylan Connolly and with the acquisition of Anto Flood, Bray will be looking to build on their incredible end of season form last term.

 

Player to watch: Dylan Connolly

 

Tipped for a move to Dundalk during the transfer window, Bray’s Dylan Connolly will look to prove that last season was no fluke and will try to put himself in the shop window for the English market.

 

Since returning home from Ipswich Town, the Dubliner scored seven goals in 35 appearances last season and will be confident of having another prolific season this year.

 

Relegation: Drogheda United

 

After creeping through the promotion play-offs against Wexford Youth’s, I can see this being a season to forget for Drog’s. The addition of Brennan brothers Gavin and Killian will help the cause, but the lack of real Premier Division quality in Drogheda’s squad can’t be overlooked. Drogheda to battle it out with Galway United for relegation.

 

Who finishes further up the table, Boh’s or Pat’s?

 

Pat’s have recruited the wiser this transfer window. The additions of ex-Liverpool duo, Alex O’Hanlon and Daniel Cleary will add some youthful quality to the Inchicore outfit. While Sean Hoare and Jamie Aherne will be difficult to replace, Pat’s are better equipped to deal with their losses than rivals Bohemians.
Bohemians have lost some key players this year and this could prove to be a difficult season for a club who will be aspiring to dominate Dublin in coming years with a redeveloped Dalymount Park.

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