Here’s our pundits predictions for the 2021 Premier Division table.
Sebastien – Football Irlandais
1 – Dundalk
New era for Dundalk, investing into international players. If this strategy coming from the new sporting Manager Jim Magilton pays off, they
2 – Shamrock Rovers
Two key players Jake Byrne and Aaron McEneff left the club. They have a solid squad to annoy Dundalk with the signing of some of the best LOI Mandriou, Hoare and Gannon. Chris McCann will also bring his Premier League experience to the young players.
3 – Bohemian FC
Huge turnover this season, Danny Grantand Mandriou, Andy Wright… are all gone. Good to see Bastien Hery back in the League, one of the most entertaining and gifted player we have had in the past years.
4 – Derry City
5 – St Patrick’s Athletic
6 – Waterford
7 – Sligo Rovers
8 – Finn Harps
9 – Drogheda
10 – Longford
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Niall Newberry – The Dundalk Democrat
Plenty of quality brought in but with most of their new signings coming in with no previous League of Ireland experience. Their ability to hit the ground running will be crucial to Dundalk’s potential success. Should they adapt quickly, it would be hard to look past a team littered with international experience.
2. Shamrock Rovers
They may be the bookie’s favourites but it’s hard not to factor the departures of Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff. They’ve brought in some serious experience in Sean Gannon and Sean Hoare. Chris McCann is another notable addition but at 33, it’s hard to see him sustain himself for a 36-game season. They’ll be there thereabouts again, but retaining a league title is possibly the hardest thing to do in football
Keith Long continued to work his magic at Bohemians last season, finishing as runners-up. They have lost key players in the form of Andre Wright and Danny Grant, but losing players hasn’t been a problem in the past for The Gypsies. I’d expect them to be looking at Europe again.
4. St Pats
Big season for Stephen O’Donnell in the St Pats hotseat. They’ve added some real quality in the likes of John Mountney and Ronan Coughlan. Add to the likes of Robbie Benson and Chris Forrester and you’ve got some serious League of Ireland experience in Inchicore this year. I’d expect them to be challenging for Europe.
Liam Buckley will be hoping to build on last year’s fourth-place finish, but it’s going to be difficult given the competitiveness of the league this term. Sligo had a very strong finish to 2020 and their starting eleven looks incredibly strong. However, avoiding injuries will be crucial if they are get into Europe again and that’s going to be difficult to achieve over a 36-game campaign. They might just miss out for me.
Budget constraints up in Derry has made life very difficult for Declan Devine. A more locally-based team will certainly be more popular with the passionate Derry support but it’s a model that’s not really suited to modern football. That said, I’d still expect Derry to cause problems for most teams, but mid-table mediocrity is probably the order of the day.
After a three-year absence from the Premier Division, it’s good to see Drogheda back. They’ve recruited really well in the likes of Dane Massey, Ronan Murray and Gary Deegan. If they can keep Dinny Corcoran fit as well, they’ll stay well clear of relegation in my opinion.
Kevin Sheedy’s first foray into management couldn’t be a more difficult task really. For a while now, it seems as though the money has dried up in Waterford and a worrying pre-season campaign won’t fill anybody with any major confidence. I still think they’ve just about enough to avoid the drop but it will be tight.
9. Finn Harps
They pulled off another lucky escape in 2020 but can Ollie Horgan’s men do it again? I think we all know the answer to that question. They’re destined to settle for a play-off spot and go from there. They’ll be fancying their chances again.
Shocked many by gaining promotion via the play-offs last term, it’s nice to see Longford get another crack at Premier Division football. However, unlike Drogheda, they haven’t been able to bring in too many experienced players. A bit like Cork City last year, this will probably cost them dearly. It’s a quick return back to the First Division I’m afraid.
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Ron – Producer of Post to Post Sport
1. Shamrock Rovers
Despite losing big names in Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff, they’ve signed big in Danny Mandriou,and Sean’s Hoare and Gannon (not related). Don’t expect the title win to be as comprehensive this season but I can see them having the quality to edge out Dundalk.
Impressive in the Presidents Cup, and they will run Shamrock Rovers close. The new faces from outside the league may take time to gel consistently, which might ultimately hand them a disadvantage. Should put up a good title challenge that last towards the latter end of the season, but may have to settle for the Europa Conference.
Expecting the title race to be a two horse affair, which opens up the possibility of a slight surprise in that number 3 spot. Sligo finished the season well and look strong. Liam Buckley’s men may find themselves in the Europa Conference again.
It may seem harsh to leave Bohs out of title contention after two good seasons, but they’ve lost big this year with Mandriou, Grant, and Wright leaving. I can see them having a slump at some point during the season that leaves them fighting for a potential final European place.
Declan Devine said recently in a press conference that he couldn’t get the team to gel last year. I expect them to fall short of Europe but fair slightly better this time around.
6. St. Pats
A bit of an anomaly. Big team, good squad, rarely have performed on a consistent basis over the past seasons. Could well qualify for Europe, could also be looking down.
Chris Lyons is my postman and Hugh Douglas still is a Bray legend, so I can hardly send them down. Good enough to extend their Premier Division run for another season.
8. Finn Harps
They followed us on Twitter so they are definitely staying up.
Will be a difficult away day, but maybe not as much as they would be if they had fans. Still expect them to cause upsets throughout the season, but the aim will be staying up, and they will have to do that the hard way.
Very difficult task to keep Waterford up. Pre-season was poor and there doesn’t seem to be any money in the team. It’s tough to see them staying up.
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Let us know your predictions for the 2021 Premier Division final standings.