With the League of Ireland due to kick-off this coming Friday, we take a look at each side as part of the eagerly anticipated season ahead.
In part one of our season preview we looked at how Bohemians, Bray Wanderers, Cork City, Derry City, Drogheda United and the champions, Dundalk, are shaping up.
In part two we exam the six remaining teams, Finn Harps, Galway United, Limerick. Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers and St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Following a surprise promotion to the league, Harps avoided relegation and put in some impressive displays last season. The Ballybofey men are ambitious and will be hoping to improve on that finish but will certainly find it a challenging task given the added quality to the teams around them.
The biggest signing this season for the north westerners has been that of Paddy McCourt. The former Celtic winger will offer the quality and experience to guide Ollie Horgan’s troops to safety.
Highly rated winger Caolan McAleer joins following a stint in Scotland to add to a youthful but fearless Hraps side that also boasts ex-Manchester United pair Ryan McConnell and Ciaran Coll.
Verdict: Relegation is a real possibility but showed the grit last season needed for survival.
Danny Morrissey (Cork City), Harry Doherty (Cockhill Celtic), Jonny Bonner (Wexford Youths), Killian Cantwell (Galway United), Caolan McAleer (Greenock Morton), Ryan McConnell (Ballinmallard United) Paddy McCourt (Free Agent)
Kevin McHugh (retired), Barry Molloy (retired), Tony McNamee (Swilly Rovers), Richard Brush (Ballinamallard United)
Ryan McConnell (2017), Gareth Harkin (2017), Ciaran Coll (2017), Ethan Boyle (2017), Ciaran Gallagher (2017), Damien McNulty (2017), Packie Mailey (2017), Tony McMonagle (2017), Michael Funston (2017)
The Tribesmen will hope to improve on last season’s ninth place finish but will have to do so without former captain Ryan Connolly, who has signed for Shamrock Rovers.
New boss Shane Keegan will be looking to bring on a team that has shown much promise since their promotion in 2015 but has failed to deliver much. Mayo man Ronan Murray will add some much needed firepower at Eamonn Deacy Park with his countyman David Cawley capable of turning provider for a side that has lacked creativity in the past.
Vinny Faherty will hope to continue his fine form from last season but a mid-table finish will probably be the best possible outcome for the men from the west.
Verdict: May flirt with relegation but have enough in their squad to beat the drop.
Ronan Murray (Notts County), David Cawley (St Patrick’s Athletic), Lee Grace (Wexford Youths), Gavan Holohan (Cork City), Ciaran Nugent (Sligo Rovers)
Ryan Connolly (ShamrocK Rovers), Kevin Horgan (Shamrock Rovers), Killian Cantwell (Finn Harps), Enda, Curran (Longford Town), Stephen Walsh (Longford Town)
Vinny Faherty (2017), Colm Horgan (2017), Marc Ludden (2017), Kevin Devaney (2017), Stephen Folan (2017), Alex Byrne (2017), Paul Sinnott (2017), Conor Melody (2017), Padraic Cunningham (2017), Gary Shanahan (2017), Jesse Devers (2017), Conor Winn (2017)
Limerick will be hoping to continue their momentum from a comfortable promotion campaign last season. The new surface at Markets Field has contributed to them playing an enterprising and passing brand of football.
However, this was sometimes their downfall when they were relegated two years ago. Martin Russell’s side will want to learn from that season and have made some impressive signings. Brazilian Rodrigo Tosi has been prolific in Asia while Chiedozie Ogbene is one of the league’s hottest prospect.
Frenchman Bastian Hery joins form Accrington Stanley and is probably best known for his bright dyed-red hair. Exciting players Lee Lynch and Shane Tracy will be the key men for Limerick this season, with beating the drop the priority for the Shannonsiders this season.
Verdict: Should push on for mid-table if they carry on last season’s form, but it could be difficult to escape the three relegation places.
Brendan Clarke (St Patrick’s Athletic), Ian Turner (Cork City), David O’Connor (Shamrock Rovers), Dean Clarke (Shamrock Rovers), Chiedozie Ogbene (Cork City), Rodrigo Tosi (Persija Jakarta), Bastien Hery (Accrington Stanley)
Aaron Greene (Bray Wanderers), Sean Russell (Louisville City)
Shane Duggan (2017), Chris Mulhall (2017), Freddy Hall (2017), Lee-J Lynch (2017), Paul O’Conor (2017), Shane Tracy (2017), Stephen Kenny (2017), John O’Flynn (2017)
Rovers have been the busiest side in terms of recruitment this winter and will probably field an almost unrecognisable team to last season. This drive is an attempt to dethrone champions Dundalk, with Ronan Finn and Darren Meenan both departing Oriel Park for Tallaght.
David McAllister and Paul Corry both return to the League of Ireland after stints in England, Roberto Lopes joins from fierce rivals Bohemians and Graham Burke will be a man to watch out for having shone for Aston Villa’s youth team in the past.
Manager Stephen Bradley has called on Arsene Wenger on the past for advice and with Damien Duff part of a vibrant young backroom team at Rovers, this could be their season to reclaim the league title.
Verdict: Possibly the strongest squad on paper in the league, but they must gel quickly to put together a title challenge.
Paul Corry (Free Agent), Roberto Lopes (Bohemians), Danny Devine (LSL), Ryan Connolly (Galway United), Darren Meenan (Dundalk FC), David McAllister (Free Agent), Tomer Chencinski (Helsingsborg), Kevin Horgan (Galway United), Ronan Finn (Dundalk FC), Michael O’Connor (Dundalk), Sam Bone (Charlton Athletic), Graham Burke (Notts County)
Stephen McPhail (retired), Gareth McCaffrey (Drogheda United), Richie Purdy (Drogheda United), Pat Cregg (St Patrick’s Athletic), David O’Connor (Limerick FC), Rob Cornwall (Bohemians), Gary McCabe (Bray Wanderers), Dean Clarke (Limerick FC), Craig Hyland (released), Barry Murphy (St. Patrick’s Athletic)
Brandon Miele (2017), Sean Boyd (2017), Trevor Clarke (2017), Aaron Dobbs (2017), James Doona (2017), Shane Hanney (2017), Gary Shaw (2017), Simon Madden (2017), Dave Webster (2017), Luke Byrne (2017), Aaron Bolger (2017), Dean Dillon (2017), Luke Kiely (2017), Sean Boyd (2017), Trevor Clarke (2017), Shane Hanney (2017), James Doona (2017)
Sligo boss Dave Robertson has improved the Bit O’ Red following a few seasons in the wilderness. Kieran Sadlier and Daniel Kearns will provide the backbone of a team full of flair and power, with veteran Raff Cretaro one of the experienced heads in this Sligo team.
Pacy winger Jonah Ayunga joins on loan from Brighton as Robertson continues his trend of bringing young English talent over on temporary deals. The departure of Gavin Peers may hurt Sligo but they are in good hands under Robertson going forward.
Last season’s fifth place finish was just reward for their efforts but a big push will be needed following the improvement of squads around them and the departures of key players like Peers, Jimmy Keohane and Achille Campion.
Verdict: A top manager in place but mid-table could be as good as it gets.
Shaun Patton (Derry City), Kyle Callan-McFadden (Orlando City), Chris Kenny (Wexford Youths), Matthew Stevens (Peterborough United), Jonah Ayunga – on loan (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Jimmy Keohane (Cork City), Achille Campion (Cork City), Gavin Peers (St. Patrick’s Athletic), Philip Roberts (Chelmsford City), Ciaran Nugent (Galway United)
Tobi Adebayo-Rowling (2017), Gary Armstrong (2017), Gary Boylan (2017), Raffaele Cretaro (2017), Regan Donelon (2018), Daniel Kearns (2017), Mikey Place (2017), Craig Roddan (2018), Kieran Sadlier (2017), Michael Schlingermann (2018), Michael Leahy (2017), John Russell (2017), Liam Martin (2017)
St. Patrick’s Athletic
Liam Buckley’s side have always been a pleasure to watch and last season’s seventh placed finish would have been a disappointment to the Inchicore side. Christy Fagan has committed to another year at Richmond Park providing a major boost to the 2013 champions.
Keith Treacy has yet to commit but would be a key player after rediscovering his form in an unfamiliar holding midfield role.
Alex O’Hanlon, who was on the books at Liverpool previously, is an exciting prospect with Peers and Pat Cregg adding some much needed experience. Kurtis Byrne will also provide some added firepower as Pat’s look to push back towards the higher end of the table this season.
Verdict: Probably not in the title hunt but should be pushing for a top four finish given the quality of their signings.
Gavin Peers (Sligo Rovers), Pat Cregg (Shamrock Rovers), Barry Murphy (Shamrock Rovers), Alex O’Hanlon (Liverpool FC), Kurtis Byrne (Bohemians)
Shane McEleney (released), Mark Timlin (Derry City), David Cawley (Galway United), Dylan McGlade (Longford Town), Brendan Clarke (Limerick), Fuad Sule (Bohemians), Dinny Corcoran (Bohemians), Jamie McGrath (Dundalk FC)
Ian Birmingham (2017), Conan Byrne (2017), Michael Barker (2017), Christy Fagan (2018), Ger O’Brien (2017)
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena
Transfer information credit: Extratime.ie.