Friday, 8 April 2011


WITH yet another pre-season seemingly dominated by off field troubles its well and truly time we take a look at who holds the trump cards and get down to business as the new Airtricity league season finally kicks off. Despite the well documented cloud of financial uncertainty hanging over many clubs recently there was still a considerable amount of activity in the much anticipated transfer window.
Former kingpins Bohemians will undoubtedly struggle this year as the grim ramifications of their financial implosion hit home. They were the busiest club during the window, but for all the wrong reasons, as their dwindling income resulted in a mass exodus of star players. Influential leader Paul Keegan and pacey full back Conner Powell skipped across the pond to Doncaster Rovers and Colchester United respectively. While crowd favourite Mark Quigley and prolific striker Jason Byrne bucked the emigration trend and instead opted for the short trip north to Dundalk, as they too depart the sinking ship.
Champions and red hot favourites to retain their crown, Shamrock Rovers quietly but effectively strengthened their squad with some shrewd acquisitions. Michael O’ Neil raided Galway United for creative pair, playmaker Stephen O Donnell and 19-year-old Karl Sheppard, who looks to be a gem of a player after he burst on to the scene last term with his fair share of both spectacular and crucial goals. Ciaran Kilduff, who single handedly kept UCD up with his goals last season, has returned to the club where he began his career while Tricky winger and F.A.I. cup medallist Gary McCabe has also been acquired from main title challengers Sligo Rovers.
The Bit O’ Red, have themselves remained very quiet with no major signings of note. They have however managed to tie down key player Ritchie Ryan to a new deal and look certain to retain the services of experienced duo Romauld Boco and Joseph Ndo who will be central to their cause if they are to mount a serious challenge.
Elsewhere, St. Pats are mourning the loss of industrious midfielder Ryan Guy who has returned to his native America and also David McAllister who joined Sheffield United. Proven campaigners such as Stephen Bradley and Evan McMillian have been brought in alongside Daryl Kavanagh and Paul Crowley to plug the gaps.
My bet sees Shamrock Rovers retaining their title, closely followed by Sligo rovers with Galway United, Bray Wanderers and UCD to battle it out for survival.

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