LOI Radar: The winners and losers from this year’s First Division
LOI Radar First Division Round-Up
As the curtain closes on another League of Ireland season we take a look back on the First Division.
The year ended with a runaway victory for Galway United, an enthralling play-off campaign, and a debut season for the league’s newest club.
But how did each club fare this season and who were this year’s winners and losers?
Final Position – 5th
Points Total – 47
It was a positive season overall in Athlone, improving from an 8th place finish in 2022. Ultimately it ended with a 4-2 aggregate defeat to Waterford in the play-off semi-final.
Decent crowds in Lissywoolen coupled with a partnership with Valeo FC announced in February, have helped the midlands club to overcome a very troubled few years both on and off the field.
Senior players brought to the club with that partnership were a huge help and massive work being done behind the scenes means that the future is more promising than the very recent past.
Player to Watch: Enda Minogue (GK, 21)
Another goal for Frantz Pierrot 👀
— League of Ireland (@LeagueofIreland) September 5, 2023
Final Position – 7th
Points Total – 44
It has been a difficult couple of seasons for Bray supporters since their merger with Cabinteely in 2021. Consecutive seventh-place finishes since then coupled with an infuriated supporter base is cause for concern.
With a strong squad assembled in pre-season, a play-off berth would have been deemed a non-negotiable especially given the dismal year fans endured in 2022.
Overall it was again a very disheartening year in Wicklow. A lot of work will be needed in the off-season to rectify things for next season.
Player to Watch: Billy O’Neill (CF, 15)
— Inpho Photography (@Inphosports) May 12, 2023
Final Position – 3rd
Points total – 59
Ramblers made enormous on-field strides this season, missing out on a derby promotion play-off against local rivals Cork City.
Compared to last season there have been incomparable improvements where they finished dead last with just 17 points.
Although unfortunate to go out in the play-offs, Cobh supporters will be buoyed and enthusiastic for next year with a young squad and an exceptionally talented academy, the future is bright along the shores of Cork Harbour.
Player to Watch: Michael McCarthy (RB, 19)
🏆 Tonight’s @Corks96FM Man of the Match in association with Garry McCarthy Trophies is Michael McCarthy
A brilliant night from the Cobh #2 👏 pic.twitter.com/V4cYy96OlY
— Cobh Ramblers FC (@CobhRamblersFC) October 6, 2023
Final position – 9th
Points total – 37
It has been a turbulent couple of years for the Harps. Relegation from the premier division last season was followed up with a second-last finish this season.
Despite being one of the Premier Division’s smallest clubs, they managed four consecutive years of top-flight survival – that feels a long time ago now.
Following a disastrous season, they parted company with manager Dave Rogers, replacing him with Darren Murphy on a two-year deal at the beginning of November.
Improvement for next season will be a bare minimum requirement with Murphy keen to use his Irish league contacts to bolster the squad.
Player to Watch: Aaron McLaughlin (AM, 17)
An excellent solo goal from Ireland U17 international Aaron McLaughlin for Finn Harps against Treaty United 👏
— ROI Radar 🇮🇪⚽🔥 (@IrelandRadar) May 26, 2023
Final Position – 1st
Points total – 94
A near-perfect season for the Tribesmen.
Storming to their second First Division title under the stewardship of John Caulfield and Ollie Horgan and an FAI cup semi-final, it’s safe to say that Galway fans enjoyed the journey.
A 4-0 victory over Dundalk probably highlights how talented a team has been assembled in Eamonn Deacy Park.
An interesting off-season is in store in terms of recruitment but Galway fans will be waiting for the new year with great anticipation with the promise of Premier Division football in store for the first time since 2017.
Player To Watch: Steven Healy (CM, 19)
— Gaillimh Aontaithe 🏆 (@GalwayUnitedFC) September 22, 2023
Final Position – 10th
Points total – 10
On paper, it looks like a disastrous season for the Kingdom. Dead last with one win in 36 games and 91 goals conceded.
However, in reality, this season has been a resounding success for the newest member of the League of Ireland community.
Billy Dennehy’s men despite their poor results managed to attract big crowds to Mounthawk Park with a fantastic platform to build on for next season.
There is s real community feel around football in the Kingdom with locals buying into what Kerry FC is trying to do. T
hat provides a pathway for the plethora of young talent available. With the youngest squad in the league and committed volunteers and support, there is every chance of long-term success in Tralee.
Player to Watch: Leonardo Gaxha (CF, 21)
— Adam Moynihan (@AdamMoynihan) July 8, 2023
Final Position – 8th
Points total – 40
It was quite a drop-off for Longford this season after a fourth-place finish in 2022.
With only four players from last season’s team, it shouldn’t be unexpected, with many making the move to Wexford and other play-off rivals.
Despite manager Stephen Henderson being known for his ability to engineer unlikely playoff runs, it was unfortunately not to be for De Town and an uninspiring eighth-place finish was their final placement for this year.
Lewis Temple (CB, 18)
📽️ | It ain't over 'till it's over…
— League of Ireland (@LeagueofIreland) October 14, 2023
Final Position – 6th
Points total – 44
Treaty United struggled to impress for large parts of their third League of Ireland season as they failed to reach the playoffs and were unable to replicate their FAI cup run of last season.
Average results, coupled with a lack of interest from Shannonsiders, even resulted in the league’s lowest average crowd of just 648.
However, their late play-off charge and the huge news of a Canadian takeover at the tail-end of the season, promises a prospective new dawn with very interesting times ahead for the Limerick club.
Player to Watch: Darren Nwankwo (CB, 18)
— Kehlan Kirwan (@KehlanK) April 28, 2023
Final Position – 2nd
Points total – 69
Keith Long’s first season in charge of the Blues was topped off with a dearly sweet promotion that relegated arch-rivals Cork City in the play-off.
A season that saw them finish well behind champions Galway still saw striker Ronan Coughlan end up with a staggering total of 35 league goals, including the winner that sealed a return to the top flight.
The six-time League of Ireland winners return to the Premier League at the second time of asking having been last involved in2021.
Player to Watch: Romeo Akachukwu (CM, 17)
⏱️ 62' Introduced (Waterford 0-0 Athlone)
⚽ 65' GOAL (Waterford 1-0 Athlone)
⚽ 78' GOAL (Waterford 2-1 Athlone)
⚽ 95' GOAL (Waterford 3-1 Athlone)
— ROI Radar 🇮🇪⚽🔥 (@IrelandRadar) October 28, 2023
Final Position – 4th
Points total – 53
Steady improvements for the Youths on last year, improving their points tally by 12 and securing their first-ever play-off position.
An increase in crowd numbers by 21% shows that the appetite for local football in the South-East has improved also, which for a fan-owned club like Wexford is an enormous help.
In late October an academy partnership with League One club Reading was confirmed, further boosting hopes for the future.
Player to Watch: James Crawford (LB, 18)
Bit of a fun fact from tonight's LOI teamsheets:
17-year-old attacking midfielder Eoin Kenny (son of Ireland senior manager Stephen Kenny) is on the bench for Dundalk and 17-year-old left-back James Crawford (son of Ireland U21s manager Jim Crawford) starts for Wexford FC 🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/lScm7jZeZM
— ROI Radar 🇮🇪⚽🔥 (@IrelandRadar) April 7, 2023