Despite beginning in February, the new League of Ireland season really kicked into gear in March, and a number of players have already set the bar high for themselves.
Cork City have come flying out of the traps and sit on top of the table with seven wins from seven, while champions Dundalk sit six points behind their fierce rivals.
Shamrock Rovers, meanwhile, have made a stuttering start to their own title challenge, while Bray Wanderers look like being the most frustrating team in the league to watch this season, but guarantee goals (in both directions).
But who has impressed in the first full month of Premier Division fixtures?
Ger Doherty (Derry City)
The 35-year-old has made a very strong start to the season, and the early signs are that his season will be every bit as good as last year. He played a key role in Derry City conceding just two goals in their opening four matches (including a clean sheet against Shamrock Rovers), and will be an instrumental figure if a title challenge is put together.
Right-Back: Sean Gannon (Dundalk)
The 25-year-old is another that carried fine 2016 form into this year, though Dundalk will have to cope without him for up to two months now (in what has already become an injury-hit season for the champions), having suffered knee ligament damage in the derby against Drogheda last Friday.
Centre-Back: Ryan McBride (Derry City)
Goals against Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk and a typically commanding performance against Drogheda were to be Ryan’s final matches before his untimely passing. The rock at the heart of Derry City’s defence, he will be sorely missed as both a teammate and leader by the Candystripes.
Ryan Delaney (Cork City)
The on-loan Burton Albion defender has been reacquainting himself with the League of Ireland quite nicely. The 20-year-old has been ever-present in a defence that has conceded just four goals in seven matches, and has helped Cork City cope with the sudden loss of Kenny Browne right before the season started.
Left-Back: Kevin O’Connor (Cork City)
O’Connor started the season like he meant business with a well-taken free kick in the President’s Cup win against Dundalk, and the former Ireland under-21 international has been flying since. The 21-year-old has been terrorising opponents down Cork City’s left-hand side once again this season and is just as handy going forward as he is at the back.
Right Midfield: Gary McCabe (Bray Wanderers)
In what has been a very unpredictable opening few rounds of the new season at the Carlisle Grounds, McCabe’s form has been consistent. Signed from Shamrock Rovers in the summer with something to prove, his six goals so far in this campaign have Bray remaining optimistic that they can secure a European place at the end of the year.
Centre Midfield: Patrick McEleney (Dundalk)
The man expected to become the new star of Dundalk has certainly begun in the right manner. McEleney has been fantastic for the defending champions so far, even as the title defence has taken a couple of knocks. Still needs to maintain it for the full year but a promising start.
Centre Midfield: Ciaran O’Connor (Finn Harps)
The on-loan Dundalk midfielder has been keen to show Stephen Kenny what he is missing this season (or the first few months of it at least), and his four goals have eased Finn Harps’ concerns for this year. The 20-year-old will definitely be a loss when he goes back to Oriel Park in the summer.
Left Midfield: Michael Duffy (Dundalk)
Filling the boots of the departed Daryl Horgan was never going to be easy, but it’s a challenge that Duffy seems to be tackling head on. The former Celtic winger adopted the number 7 shirt at Dundalk and has been showing plenty of promise at his new club. The goals have even started to flow, with strikes against Sligo Rovers and Drogheda United in recent weeks.
Dinny Corcoran (Bohemians)
Corcoran arrived from St. Patricks Athletic in the winter to a young side tipped to struggle, though his five goals have allayed those fears for the time being at least. In the absence of Ismahil Akinade the 28-year-old has stepped up, though he is set to be out of action through injury for a number of weeks – which could yet derail Bohs’ season.
Sean Maguire (Cork City)
What more can be said about the man that everyone is talking about right now? Maguire’s form has been so good that he is being talked about as a potential Ireland striker. The 22-year-old has scored seven goals in as many games so far this year and will be a cornerstone of City’s title challenge.
Read More About: Ciaran O’Connor, dinny corcoran, gary mccabe, ger doherty, kevin o'connor, LOI Premier Division, michael duffy, patrick mceleney, ryan delaney, ryan mcbride, sean gannon, sean maguire