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League of Ireland Premier Division 2024 Season Preview

The 2024 League of Ireland Premier Division season is right around the corner, and it’s shaping up to be a cracker. We’re stepping into a new season of football that’s set to hook fans from all corners, and one of the biggest questions on everyone’s lips is whether Shamrock Rovers can do it again, or whether it will be another side lifting the gold come the end of the campaign.

We’re diving right into the action, bringing you a preview that covers all of this season’s top-flight teams. Expect to hear about new signings and fresh tactics that could shake up the division. Our deep dive will get you up to speed on everything you need to know before the League of Ireland season kicks off.

So, whether you live and breathe football or just love the vibe of match day, the 2024 season is ready to deliver. So make sure to get down to your local side and support them! Real football, is better than the football you see on TV.

League of Ireland Team by Team Season Preview

Bohemians FC:

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After an excellent start to the campaign last season taking 18 points out of a possible 21, the disappointment felt at the drop in form over the rest of the season was heightened after the defeat to fellow Dublin side St Patricks Athletic in the FAI Cup final.

Business regarding incoming players has been a slow burner but things have been looking up for the Dalymount club over the last few weeks. The trio of signings from Estonian club FC Flora has added numbers to the squad but it remains to be seen how successful the signings will be. Bringing in players new to the league always carries a risk but manager Declan Devine will hope they will hit the ground running. Keith Buckley being sidelined for the start of the season is also a challenge they will need to overcome. Holding on to James Clarke after a standout season last year is a big plus going forward.

Having enjoyed a very impressive 2023, Dayle Rooney is a standout signing who will hope to carry on his form from last term that seen him as a mainstay in the Drogheda United team.

Danny Grant returns to Phibsboro following spells with Huddersfield and Harrogate Town, Grant appeared for Bohs in the league 72 times before his move so will have no problem adjusting to the level required in the league. A welcome addition to the squad.

Estonian trio Stein Reinkort, Martin Miller and Michael Lilander all come with plenty of experience having amassed countless appearances in the Premium Liiga in Estonia. As it’s their first time competing in Irish football it’s hard to predict how they will adjust to the league.

Out:

Main man and the league’s joint top scorer last season, Jonathan Afolabi’s move to Belgium to KV Kortrijk is a huge loss and his goals will be sorely missed. The “Gypsies” will be keen to find a goalscorer to make up for Afolabis 20 goals last season.

An integral part of the team, Ali Coote will be sorely missed by Bohs fans as he has moved to Detroit City. Coote made 92 league appearances over the last 3 seasons and his contributions primarily from the wing will be tough to replace.

Prediction: I have a feeling it could be a tough year at Dalymount and targeting the cup competitions may be a good tactic to gain silverware. Any improvement on last season’s 6th-place finish will be a positive 7th.

Derry City:

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Finishing 2nd and 7 points behind champions Shamrock Rovers for the past 2 seasons will haunt Derry City fans. Still, manager Ruaidhrí Higgins has built a squad for the season ahead that is more than capable of upsetting the odds and claiming the title they have gotten so close to securing.

In:

Crying out for a centre forward, Derry City have finally signed one of the League’s most potent, clinical finishers in Patrick Hoban. He moves from Dundalk where he spent 5 years and currently holds the club’s all-time goalscoring record.

Although the signing of Hoban will take the majority of the headlines, the addition of Daniel Kelly is eye-catching, at 27 the winger is entering into his prime and has been one of the best wide men in the league over the last few seasons. His 33 goals over the past 5 years for Dundalk may prove he is not a proven goalscorer but underrated nonetheless.

It’s been a relatively quiet off-season for Derry as far transfer windows go with Higgins happy to go into the new season with the majority of the same squad as last season apart from a few additions.

Out:

The departure of Jamie McGonigle to his home club Coleraine is sure to affect the squad. McGonigle made 92 appearances during his 3 years with the Candystripes, scoring 28 goals and playing a key role in their second-place finishes in consecutive seasons.

The loss of Brandon Kavanagh will also be felt, the versatile midfielder made 72 appearances over 2 seasons with Derry and his move to fellow title contenders St Pats will be a blow.

Similarly to the incomings into the club, there have been few notable transfers out. Higgins seems to be content with the squad he has at the moment, with a big title challenge ahead.

Prediction: As noted, finishing 2nd for the last 2 seasons was a good achievement at the time but Derry fans will realise they have built a squad that is more than capable of taking the title and stopping Shamrock Rovers 5 in a row. Patrick Hoban’s goals will be key to their success this season. 1st – Champions.

Drogheda United:

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A 7th place finish and 10 points above the drop last season was an impressive result for a Drogheda squad that was packed with youth. The experience of a year under their belt in the league should benefit the team going into this year’s campaign along with a few good signings to add to the squad too. Adam Foley’s 8 goals from midfield last season were crucial in the success and he will need to replicate this term.

In:

The addition of Athlone Town’s top scorer Frantz Pierrot will be massive going forward. His 20 league goals last season were the main reason Athlone were so keen to keep the striker.

The signing of League of Ireland veteran David Webster could be a shrewd move. His experience will be vital in such a young squad. If he can replicate his form from 2021 with Finn Harps, Drogheda have a solid defender on their hands.

Along with Webster, the signing of Jack Keaney from UCD is another addition that will sure up the defence. Captaining UCD last season, Keaney made 34 league appearances and will provide physicality and strength to the drogs.

Other signings: Oisin Gallagher (Lincoln), Cann Hayden (Lincoln)

Out:

The departure of Conor Keeley to fellow League of Ireland side St Pats is disappointing for Drogheda fans. Keeley was an ever-present in the heart of their defence playing 37 times last season.

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The versatile Dayle Rooney will also be a loss, his ability to play anywhere across the middle coupled with his numerous contributions in both goals & assists will be missed for the season ahead.

The move for Kyle Robinson to Arbroath is a good move for both clubs & the player. Robinson is still young at 21 and the experience he will gain in Scotland will be invaluable in the development of his career.

Other outgoings: Colm Cox (Without a club), Luke Wade-Slater (Longford Town), Darragh Noone (Without a club)

Prediction: With a highly-rated manager at the helm and youth on their side. Drogheda have a seriously high ceiling for the season ahead.  They have the youngest squad in the league with an average age of 23 mixed with players with plenty of experience, they could surprise a few this season and will have their sights set on improving on last year’s 7th-place finish. 6th.

Dundalk FC:

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Overall a disappointing and underwhelming season last year for Dundalk with doubts over the ownership of the club hanging over the team for the majority of the year. The failure to qualify for Europe was the final straw in what can be described as a season to forget for the lily whites. It’s been a time of unrest in Oriel Park with question marks over the owners and a huge turnover of the club’s main players.

In:

A trio of loan deals from across the water in defender Zak Bradshaw (Lincoln), midfielder Scott High (Huddersfield) and striker Ciaran McGuckian (Rotherham) have bolstered Dundalk’s squad ahead of the beginning of the season.

The signing of striker Jamie Gullan from Raith Rovers brings renewed hope to fans in Oriel Park that he can replace the goals of Patrick Hoban. With over 150 appearances in Scotland, Gullan is not short on experience and will have high hopes of improving on his 2 league goals in 16 appearances last season.

Dundalk fans will hope the signing of goalkeeper Ross Munro from Ross County will successfully replace fan favourite Nathan Sheppard.

The signing of Dara Keane from relegated UCD could be a good move for both club & player. Keane was an ever-present for UCD last season and made 27 appearances so has plenty of experience playing in the league already.

Other signings: Robert Mahon (Motherwell), Jamie Walker (Kelty Hearts), Koen Oostenbrink (Eindhoven

Out:

The loss of Pat Hoban is a massive blow to Dundalk. The club captain and all-time leading scorer leaves Oriel Park to move to League of Ireland rivals Derry City. Hoban won 5 trophies and 3 top goalscorer awards throughout his 8 years with the club. His goals will be sorely missed and will be very hard to replace.

Another fan favourite to leave the club for Derry City is Daniel Kelly. Over his 5 years at the club, Kelly has amassed over 150 appearances and has become an ever-present within the team over the last couple of seasons.

An ever-present in the Dundalk midfield for the last 4 seasons, the move for Greg Sloggett to league one side Cheltenham.

Welsh goalkeeper Nathan Sheppard will be a huge loss to the team having performed impressively throughout his 2 years at the club. His replacement will have plenty to live up to with Sheppard having 28 clean sheets in the 79 appearances he made for the club.

5 years at Oriel, Darragh Leahy’s transfer to newly promoted Waterford may have come as a surprise to many, his influence from left-back will be sorely missed.

Other outgoings: John Martin (Shelbourne), Conor Malley (Sligo Rovers), Keith Ward (Shelbourne), Callum Bonner (Longford Town)

Prediction: I feel Dundalk are in for a tough season, they haven’t replaced the players who left the club with the necessary experience that is needed to possibly challenge for a European spot. The transfer business they’ve done compared to other teams hasn’t been good enough. 5th.

Galway United:

League Of Ireland

After steamrolling everyone to the division one league last year, John Caulfield will be looking forward to their first season back in the top flight with staying up the main priority. Making the most of their matches at Eamonn Deacy Park will be key to their survival having won 18 out of 18 at home on the way to the title last season. Having 6 players on last season’s team of the year is an indicator of how dominant they were.

In:

In a relatively young squad, the signing of Garry Buckley from Sligo Rovers has the feeling of a key one. Having played over 250 matches in the League of Ireland for Cork City and Sligo Rovers his experience will be invaluable.

The signing of right-back Jeannot Esua from Finish club Ekenas is a welcome addition to the squad which was crying out for a right-back. Relatively unknown, 27-year-old Esua’s explosive attacking play will be a big asset to Galway this season. He was last year named Defender of the Year as Ekenäs clinched the Division 1 Finish title.

The signing of Karl O’Sullivan from Sligo Rovers will help boost Galway’s options in midfield. O’Sullivan has made 115 appearances in the League of Ireland’s premier division so is not short of experience. He made 16 league appearances last season which would’ve been a lot more if it hadn’t of been for an ankle injury picked up halfway through the season. O’Sullivan can play left or right so will be a good option for Caulfield going forward.

Out:

Defender Oisin O’Reilly’s move to Treaty United is far from ideal but the depth of the squad especially in defence will cope with the youngster’s departure.

The trio of outgoing players Evan O’Connor (Treaty United), Rob Manley (Home Farm) and Darren Clarke (Glenavon) all struggled to nail down a starting spot in the team last season but contributed well off the bench when called upon.

Prediction: After an unbelievably successful 2023 where they cruised to division 1 glory and also had a brilliant run to the semi-final of the FAI cup, Galway has retained the majority of their squad and also added a few interesting looking signings that will no doubt improve the team. They hope to replicate some of their home form that was crucial to last year’s winning formula. I fear they may struggle for goals at times that may see them flirt with relegation but ultimately survive their first season back in the top flight. 8th.

Shamrock Rovers:

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Seeking a record-breaking 5th title in a row. Last season’s start was one to forget, 5 points from the opening 6 games, a much better start will be needed this term to retain their title. Following this they went the 10 games unbeaten to gain a lead on their rivals that was not to be. Rivals for the majority of the season last year were Derry City and St Patrick’s Athletic even though Rovers ran out comfortable winners in the end. I expect all to be in the mix at the top end of the table this season. Rovers have also made some shrewd signings as their title defence heats up. A European campaign may come as a distraction as they hope to atone for their disastrous season in the continent’s elite last term.

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In:

Darragh Burns is a very exciting prospect and is back in the League of Ireland following an unsuccessful move to MK Dons that ended with only 24 appearances over a season. Burns broke on the scene in 2020 for St. Patrick’s Athletic. His direct style of play will no doubt be important in Rover’s bid to clinch 5 in a row. In his last year in the League of Ireland back in 2022, He was noted as the player topping the dribble charts with the second-highest dribble completion rate in the Premier Division, another indicator of how direct he can be.

They’ve also recruited Josh Honohan, Honohan has got a move to Tallaght after a rock solid season for Cork City in 2023. A popular player among Cork fans and will be sorely missed this season. Still only 22 so has loads of time to fulfil his potential. No doubt a solid addition to the Rovers squad.

Aaron McEneff Returning to Rovers after spells in Scotland with Hearts and Australia with Perth Glory. McEneff knows the League inside out having spent 6 seasons in the league before his move abroad, 4 with Derry City and 2 with Shamrock Rovers where he won a league and cup during his time in Tallaght. With the addition of both his goals and assists, the signing of Mceneff is a huge addition to the squad entering the new season.

Other signings: Trevor Clarke (Bristol Rovers), Johnny Kenny (Celtic – loan extension), Markus Poom (Flora Tallinn – loan extension), Lee Steacy (Cobh Ramblers).

Out

The departure of club Captain Ronan Finn to UCD will be a blow but the signing of Honohan will bring youth and energy to the side in the right-back position.

Noted as the best goalkeeper the club has had, the retirement of Allan Manus will also be a blow, as much to the dressing room as on the pitch, his replacement, German keeper’ Leon Pohls has big gloves to fill but his 9 clean sheets in 14 appearances last season is a sign he is more than capable of taking over.

Other outgoings: Liam Burt (Shelbourne – loan), Kieran Cruise (Bray Wanderers), Carl Lennox (Wexford – loan), Simon Power (Sligo Rovers), Naj Razi (Como), Freddie Turley (Bray Wanderers – loan).

Prediction: Hard to see past the 5 in a row after the business they have done in the off-season, although depending on how far they go in Europe, they may take their eye off the league at times that will open the door for others. 2nd.

Shelbourne:

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One of the smaller squads in the league, manager Damien Duff has assembled a tight-knit group ahead of the new season with hopes they can improve on their 4th place finish last year.

In:

The addition of in my opinion the league’s best right back over the past 10 years Sean Gannon is guaranteed to give Shels a boost. Gannon struggled to cement a starting spot under Stephen Bradley at Shamrock Rovers last season and injuries at crucial times meant he didn’t have a sustained period in the team. If he is to regain his form and avoid injuries like he did at Dundalk almost 3 years ago now, he will be a massive player going forward for Shelbourne.

The signing of striker Dean Williams from Bohemians will bolster their attacking options. Williams struggled to nail down a starting spot for Bohs last year but will hope to be a main contributor in attack for Shels this season.

Duff has signed another striker John Martin from Dundalk. Martin was on the periphery of the starting 11 for the majority of his 2 years with Dundalk but will hope to return to the levels of performance he produced at Waterford in 2021.

Other signings: Lorcan Healy (UCD), Liam Burt (Shamrock Rovers), Keith Ward (Dundalk), John O’Sullivan (Bohemians)

Out:

An ever-present in midfield last season, making 36 league appearances with 15 goals, Jack Moylan’smove to English League one side Lincoln will no doubt be a blow for Duff’s charges after putting in some brilliant performances and making league of Ireland team of the season in the process. A well-deserved move across the water for Moylan.

Other outgoings: Luke Browne (Crystal Palace), Arubi Gbemi (Waterford), Gavin Hodgins (Glenavon)

Apart from Moylan, there have been very few notable absentees from Tolka Park for the upcoming season.

Prediction: With very few players leaving, Duff has a balanced, reliable squad to choose from going into the new season. Qualifying for the Europa Conference League was a big achievement last season, they will hope to have a run in that along with improving on their 4th place finish last season and possibly a title charge. I think it’s a big possibility looking at their squad. 3rd

Sligo Rovers:

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A blessing for Sligo that both Cork & UCD were unable to find any form last season, they’re going to have a real fight from the first week to stay in the division this season though. They will have to equal if not better the 25 out of their total 37 points picked up at home last season. Lack of goals scored was an issue last season so manager John Russell will hope to address that from the start.

In:

Right-back John Ross Wilson is a good signing from Shelbourne. Wilson has made over 100 appearances for Shelbourne so comes with plenty of experience in a fairly inexperienced squad at this level.

Connor Malley will be keen to establish himself as a regular starter under John Russel, Malley comes from Dundalk where he was a regular starter in midfield last season. He can be an important player for Sligo this season.

On loan from Oxford United until July, Ed McGinity returns to the showgrounds for his 2nd spell with the club. Having already made over 100 appearances for the club at the age of 24, McGinty knows the club inside out and may play an important role in their fight against relegation.

It has just been announced that Max Mata has returned to the club on loan from Shrewsbury Town. A massive boost ahead of the start of the new season.*

Out

In August, Rovers league top scorer with 11 goals Max Mata moved to league two side Shrewsbury Town. New Zealand international Mata made over 50 appearances for the club. It’s hard to pick out if / where Sligo have replaced his goals.*

Swedish right-back Johan Brannefalk has moved back to Sweden with third-tier team Ariana FC, Brannefalk stayed with the club for one year and made 33-year appearances for the club. His ability to create chances and flexibility to play left or right will be missed.

With over 600 League of Ireland premier division appearances between the pair, the loss of both Garry Buckley (Galway United) & Greg Bolger (Cork City) is massive. The experience lost alone is a reason for concern, without considering the quality they have. Sligo are going to find it very tough to replace both.

Other outgoings: Danny Lafferty (Institute), Lukas Browning (Gefie), Karl O’Sullivan (Galway United) & Frank Liivak (FCI Levadia)

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Prediction: When considering all the squads, I feel Sligo is the weakest. Where the goals are going to come from has to be a worry for John Russell. It’s going to be very tough for them to stay up but now is a perfect opportunity for some of the younger players in the squad to step up when needed most. 10th – Relegated.

St Patrick’s Athletic:

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The Inchicore club’s record against both Rovers and Derry will have to improve if they are to build on last season’s third-place finish and their FAI cup win. They’ve won just once in their last 10 meetings with Derry. Although the loss of the president’s cup to Rovers last week carries little importance, it may just create doubts among the Pats players going into such a big season.

In:

An impressive off-season has led to manager Jon Daly strengthening his squad with quantity and quality aplenty. The signing of star striker Ruairi Keating from Cork City is a massive signal of intent. Keating scored 13 league goals last season in a really poor Cork side, Pats have been crying out for a clinical finisher for years now, If Keating can replicate his form from last year, Pats should not be far away.

The signing of young goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga on loan from Liverpool may turn out to be a great move by the club. Last season’s number 1 Dean Lyness was out of contract and the signing of Pitaluga may turn out to be a shrewd one. Relatively unknown, the Brazilian will be inexperienced at this level but with a solid back four in front of him, the transition to senior football should be easier.

Brandon Kavanagh makes the move to Inchicore having made 31 appearances for Derry City last season. A versatile player who can play anywhere across the midfield and will add depth to Jon Daly’s squad for the coming year.

Out:

The departure of last season’s number 1 Dean Lyness is a blow but signing Pitalugais as a capable replacement is a great move.

The move by youngster Sam Curtis to Sheffield Utd is a big move for his development. To have already made 35 league appearances at the age of 18 is a serious achievement and one to watch for the future.

A player who was mostly used off the bench, Tommy Lonergan made 34 appearances scoring 4 goals and was always a good option for Jon Daly last season.

Young midfielder Adam Murphy has moved to league one side Bristol City for €250k after featuring 34 times for the Saints last season.

Prediction: The over-reliance on star midfielder Chris Forrester to produce magic week in and week out may halt Pats title charge but if new signing Keating can produce goals, there’s no reason they won’t be in the mix for the title. I feel they’ll come up short though and a run in the cup again is their most likely avenue of silverware. 4th.

Waterford FC:

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In

Ronan Coughlin’s 35 league goals were key to Waterford’s success last year but since his departure, they’ve recruited proven goalscorer Padraig Amond from Woking. Now 35, Amond has played the majority of his career in England with Newport County, Morecambe & Accrington Stanley. His goals will play a big role if Waterford stays in the division.

The signing of left-back Darragh Leahy from Dundalk feels like a big one, Leahy won the FAI cup and made over 100 appearances for the Louth club. Leahy played under Long at Bohemians so will hopefully have no problem settling in at the RSC.

The Blues have also recruited Polish centre-back Kacper Radkowski from Bohemians. Radlowski made 38 appearances for the Dalymount club having stayed only 1 season before his move to Waterford. The 22-year-old will provide another solid option in defence for Long this season.

Other signings: Ben Mccormack (St Pats), Robert McCourt (Dundalk)

Out

The hole left by last season’s main man Ronan Coughlin will be tough to fill but Keith Long trusts his recruitment of Amond to be able to fill the void left by Coughlan. The 27-year-old’s move to Fleetwood Town is his first move across the water and is well deserved judging by his performances last season.

Despite only staying at the club for one season, Wassim Aouachria scored 17 goals during his 34 appearances for the Blues and even though he found it tough to secure a starting spot in the side, his contributions when on the pitch were invaluable. His move to relegation rivals Galway United in disappointing for Waterford fans.

The club’s second league top scorer on their way to promotion was Roland Idowu, the central midfielder chipped in with 9 league goals and has since deservedly got a move to Shrewsbury Town. His goals from midfield will be hard to replace but Waterford will hope to look to the likes of Connor Parsons, Dean McMenamy & Romeo Akachukwu to contribute instead.

Another loss to the midfield is Shane Griffin. The 24-year-old made 120 appearances over 4 years with the club and has been an ever-present in the heart of their midfield. His move to division one side Bray Wanderers comes as a surprise following Waterford’s promotion.

Last season’s captain and top performer Giles Phillips’s move to Oxford United is arguably the biggest blow to the side leading up to the new campaign. The American started the majority of matches last season and even scored the extra-time goal to seal the Blues place in the promotion final. His consistency throughout the year led to his inclusion in the team of the season and will be a massive loss to the side.

Other outgoing: Sam Perry (Macclesfield)

Prediction: Keith Long and his squad face an uphill battle to stay in the league having lost so much experience in the transfer window. They have recruited well and a lot will depend on how Padraig Amond settles in and if he can replicate the goals Coughlan scored for the team last season. It will be close but they might just have enough to stay up this season. 9th – Relegation play-off.

We could be in for one of the most exciting seasons in recent times in the League of Ireland, with several teams with realistic chances of winning the title and denying Shamrock Rovers a historic 5 in a row. There’ll also be a battle to remain in the division as there are so many teams evenly matched. Overall it’s very hard to predict the narratives that will play out at both ends of the League. A huge season ahead to look forward to awaits.

Predicted Table

Derry CityChampions
Shamrock Rovers2nd
Shelbourne3rd
St Patricks Athletic4th
Dundalk5th
Drogheda6th
Bohemians7th
Galway United8th
Waterford FCRelegation play-off
Sligo RoversRelegated

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