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Five Burning Questions Ahead Of The Start Of The First Division Season

With the Airtricity Premier Division up and running following the first round of fixtures on Friday, it is now time for fans to turn their attention to the first division which begins tonight.

There are a host of teams vying for a return to the top flight this season, with Shelbourne, Bray Wanderers, Drogheda United and Longford all contenders for promotion.

The league is a melting pot of narratives ahead of the beginning of the campaign and with that in mind Pundit Arena takes a look at five burning questions ahead of the start of the First Division season.

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1) Can Shelbourne Live Up To The Hype?

The heavy favourites for promotion this season, Shelbourne have made a bet big on a return to the top-flight, with a host of top quality additions in the off-season.

New manager Ian Morris brought in a wealth of experience to the side which included Oscar Brennan, Ciaran Kilduff and Conan Byrne as they look for a return to the Premier Division for the first time since.

Former Dundalk striker and perennial winner Kilduff could be a massive signing for Shels and UCD proved last season with Georgie Kelly, that a goalscorer can take you very far in this division.

There will undoubtedly be pressure on Morris, who replaced Owen Heary in the offseason, to deliver but they are a side with all the tools to achieve promotion this season.

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2) Could This Finally Be The Season Athlone Town Get Back On Their Feet Again?

It hasn’t been easy being an Athlone Town fan over the last number of years. Three consecutive seasons of propping up the table and only one win in the league last season, there have been many dark days at the Midlands club.

This year, however, early signs are that the rebuild may well and truly be on. Manager Terry Butler has brought in some good additions, the likes of Kealan Dillon and Gareth McCaffrey are both very promising signings.

Athlone also picked up a fantastic win over Dundalk last week in the Leinster Senior Cup, only their second victory in a year and a half.

Butler’s side will be far from promotion-chasing but their new additions could mean a boost, and anything other than a 10th place finish would be very welcomed at Athlone.

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3) Can Drogheda Get The Best Out Of Thomas Byrne? 

On his day, Drogheda United’s Thomas Byrne is unquestionably one of the brightest talents in the whole of Irish football.

The 20-year old showed that in glimpses at St Patrick’s Athletic last season, but once again his moments of ill-discipline let him down.

Byrne has returned to United Park for this campaign and if he can keep his head screwed on he has all the tools to help Tim Clancy’s side towards a promotion push.

Can Drogheda get the best out of the young midfielder? Any fans of the division will surely hope so.

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4) What Cobh Ramblers Side Are We Going To Get This Season?

It’s impossible to really know what to expect from Stephen Henderson and Cobh Ramblers this campaign.

Last year they went on a dazzling cup run, reaching the EA Sports Cup final beating the likes of Limerick and Dundalk on the way to an excellent performance in defeat to Derry.

In the league though, they struggled, eventually finishing eighth with only the minnows of Wexford and Athlone below them.

Market’s Field, as always, will be a tough place to go for teams in the division but Cobh will need to show more this campaign if they are to finish anywhere other than the bottom three.

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5) Can Bray Wanderers Bounce Back From Relegation?

Last season was a tumultuous one, to say the least at Bray Wanderers and eventually lead to their relegation from the Premier Division.

This season it appears as though the club have solved their off-field issues which plagued them throughout the campaign and look like they could be one of the favourites for an immediate return to the top-flight.

They’ve had an excellent off-season bringing in the experienced Paul Keegan as well as the incredibly talented Dylan McGlade, the kind of player who has proven he can make a huge difference in the division.

Provided the off-field antics don’t rear their ugly head again, it should be an incredibly promising season at the Carlisle Grounds.

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Author: Oisin McQueirns

Oisin McQueirns is a digital journalist at Pundit Arena. Massive fan of Leeds United, Ric Flair and Trusting The Process. Contact him here [email protected]