The 6th of March will mark perhaps one of the most important moments in sport in Galway over recent years. The visit of Derry City to Eamon Deacy Park will be the first time the Terryland venue has hosted a Premier division game since 2011. Over the next few months, Galway United will face off against the likes of Shamrock Rovers, St. Patrick’s, Bohs and defending champions Dundalk as the club attempts to retain its place in the top tier of Irish football.
The step up from the first division to the premier is not one to be taken lightly. Galway have a relatively inexperienced squad compared to the majority of the other teams they will come up against. Recently, one of last season’s star players, Ryan Manning has swapped Galway for London as he joined QPR on a two year deal. Odds are, Galway could spend most of the season in a dogfight to avoid relegation against the likes of Bray, Limerick and Drogheda. However, I believe Bray are most likely to be rooted to the bottom of the table this time around, although this means Galway could potentially still have to compete in a relegation play-off match at the end of the season against a side from the first division.
Contenders for the crown are likely to be defending champions Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers & St. Patrick’s. Rovers have bolstered their squad this year with the signings of Danny North from Sligo Rovers, Gavin Brennan from Drogheda and ex-Republic of Ireland international Keith Fahey from St. Patrick’s. Two highly rated young players, Brandon Miele and Michael Drennan from Newcastle and Aston Villa respectively have also signed with the Tallaght based club for the forthcoming season. In addition, highly rated midfielder Stephen McPhail has re-signed.
St Patrick’s have managed to maintain the services of the bulk of the first team players that saw them win the league in 2013, and then the FAI Cup last November. However, the loss of Keith Fahey to another side competing for the title will no doubt be a massive blow for the Saints. But Pats have made two notable acquisitions, Jason McGuinness and Ciarán Kilduff, both join the club from Shamrock Rovers. It will be a closely fought battle, but I think Shamrock Rovers will be too strong for St. Patrick’s and Dundalk.
In the First Division, Shelbourne and UCD are the two sides most likely to compete for promotion. Shels narrowly missed out on promotion last year while this marks UCD’s first time outside of the topflight since 2009. A third Dublin side will also compete in the first division this year; Cabinteely FC, a Leinster Senior League club, will be playing their home matches at the grounds of Blackrock College rugby club as their own home grounds in Cabinteely are not up to League of Ireland standards. It remains to be seen what this new addition to the league can be capable of however, clubs that have been in their position in the past have traditionally done poorly.
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