Saturday, February 28, 2015

League of Ireland 2015 Preview

  1. Dundalk FC
  2. Shamrock Rovers
  3. Richie Towell will again carry the banner for Dundalk
    St Patrick’s
  4. Sligo Rovers
  5. Cork City
  6. Derry
  7. Limerick
  8. Galway United
  9. Drogheda United
  10. Bohemians FC
  11. Bray Wanders
  12. Longford Town

   5 clubs  in Dundalk, Shamrock, the Saints, Sligo and Cork all will be fighting for the 3 guaranteed international spots. I give the edge to Dundalk to repeat.

                Dundalk FC are the reigning League of Ireland Champions. The 2014 season was a banner year at Oriel Park. This was Dundalk’s  10th  Championship. Their popular MF Richie Towell is back after tryouts abroad. Towell is probably the best midfielder in the league. Dundalk did lose their top goal scorer in Pat Hoban and hope that the young  Kurtis Bryne (24)  and David McMillan (26) can play more minutes and score more goals than last year. They each scored 7 goals last year. Dundalk had the most goals with 73 goals for and the least scored upon with only 24.( +49) so they were the only club to be able to absorb the loss of Hoban. They replenished their defense and add to their MF with the signing of attacking MF Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers) from the hoops, Shane Grimes  DF from Drogheda, DF Paddy Barrett  from Galway and MF Jack Kelly from Bray. I see Dundalk in the running for the Title and another European placement with the replacements they have added. They will need in playing in the Champions League later this year.

                St Patrick’s Athletic        The start of last year they were the reigning Champions. They lost too much ground to Dundalk and Cork City at the beginning of the year and finished a disappointing 3rd place. They did however end the season on a very high note winning the FAI Cup. This qualified them for the 2015-16 Europa League and the valuable money they get for playing in each round.  The most controversial personal change was losing Kevin Fahey to cross town rivals, Shamrock Rovers. It is my guess that St Pat’s will compete for the league based on the fact that they have the deepest fire power up front. They have Chris Fagan returning who won the scoring title last year (he Tied Pat Hoban), with 20 goals. Then there is MF-FW Conan Byrne who almost won the scoring title with 18 goals. Either one of these players can do it again. The Saints can also insert the imposing 6’3’’ Ciaran Kilduff (Shamrock Rovers). Kilduff  will want to prove to the Hoops that is was a mistake to not sign them. The saints also have the talented 5’11’’ Chris Forrester. Forrester will roam the Left midfield along with attacking MF Killian Brennan. The MF is deep enough to withstand the rigors of the League, Setanta Cup, FAI Cup and the European trip. I see the Saints at least getting another European spot and compete for the title all year long. This team

Stephen McPhail
                Staying it Dublin, I believe the Shamrock Rovers have done enough in the off season to create a strong, veteran team on paper. Pat Felton has the most senior and experienced team in the league. The hoops placed a disappointing 4th place but their cross town rivals saved their Europa League spot by beating Derry City in the FAI Cup final. The hoops new midfield will be orchestrated by veterans Stephen McPhail(Sheffield Wednesday) and Kevin Fahey (St Patrick’s Athletic). Both of these grizzled veterans will control the middle and connect with the speedy Gary McCabe on the outside. McPhail played in Cardiff City for 7 years. They will try to find the rugged Danny North (Sligo Rovers) up front as much as possible.  I expect Danny North to compete if not win the scoring title. The Hoops could do some damage in their European endeavors this year and gain valuable $ by advancing in the Europa League.  The Rovers I believe will challenge for Title and at least place in the European spots.

Morten Nielson -Sligo  hmmmm
                Do not count Sligo Rovers out of the running. They have the diverse internationals on their team that should start. These players are at all key positions. They have the gigantic 6’4’’ FW Morten Nielson from Denmark. Did Sligo get him for more than just his scoring skills? Is he the Christiano Ranaldo for the League of Ireland. MF Sander Puri from Estonia, and 2 English lads in DF Jeff Henderson and GK Richard Bush. Look for the 23 year old Wearen to attack up the middle and try to feed Nielson as much as possible. Sligo will be in the mix until the end, they do not have international games to tier their club.

The 34 year old Colin Healy at Cork
                Cork City are the club with an awesome stadium and terrific fan support. They had a terrific year last year placing 2nd in the league. The title come down to the last game of the season at Dundalk. They signed native son and international player Liam Miller ,who has been playing abroad since his youth career,most notably Hibernian, Sutherland, Perth Glory and Celtic. He will be matched in the middle with another veteran Colin Healy(34 yrs old). This veteran midfield matches the hoops in experience and quality.  They will have a veteran defender in  27 years old Alan Bennett (AFC Wimbledon).   They will try to feed their very young forwards that are just loaded with potential. Up front O’Sullivan (31yrs) is the veteran who should guide Sheppard and O’Shea  to the long haul of the league games. 


The middle of the pack. 

Derry City, Galway United, Limerick FC, Bohemians, Drogheda United,

                Derry City is just to interesting not to mention simply because they have currently have 13 Northern Irish born players on the candy stripers. Starting with the 32 year old Englishman Anthony Elding who can carry a club when he is hot. He is the league's look-a-like for Viktor Krum. Now if Elding can be as good as Krum was in quittich then Derry City will be in business.
Anthony Elding
B McNamee and  will lead the attack in the middle. There will be times, maybe for a string of games that there will be more Northern Irish players playing than Irish born players. Hopefully they can capture the Brandywell faithful attention and compete for a European spot. Placing in the top 3 spots is the goal......if not they could revert to last years strategy of playing their best players for the FAI Cup.

Galway United started out poorly in the First Division last year. However the organization and the team really came together at the end. The placed in 3rd and won the all important game against Dublin power Shelbourne. This gave Galway the right to play the Premier League side UCD --aka the Students. Galway won both games to gain promotion and the celebration was on. This year the task is much more daunting. They do have a young American Striker in Jack Keegan but he is no Landon Donovan. United's faithful will rely on youth because of budget constraints. This however gives the young kids a chance to play ....
     Galway just signed Sam Oji. He will add muscle to the much needed help to the Tribesmen back line. 

Bohemians FC  This old soldier has 11 League Championships. They will rely on another old soldier in Jason Bryne who is 197 goals playing in the League of Ireland. Shit I can't even count that high. well This soldier will be playing in front of the Bohemian faithful who are a very passionate group. they will appreciate Bryne's efforts and they will also rely on youth to help them through. 

Limerick FC 
Has the best crest. Yup that's all I have. Their main rival is Cork City in the because they are the 2 biggest urban areas in Munster. Cork is twice it size population wise but Boston-NY rivalry has a huge population difference.  

Drogheda United

Trying to avoid Regulation Bray Wanders Longford Town.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

LA Galaxy vs Shamrock Rovers at Tallagh Stadium

Tallaght Stadium with the Stands behind the goal.....this made for a great "enclosed" stadium
There was quite a build up leading up to this game. First Irish Captain Robbie Keane was coming to the Irish Capitol. Not only is he the Irish Captain he was also born in Dublin. Fan's wanted to see their local hero who receives so much press in America.

The’ chairman of the Shamrock Rovers Jonathan Roche was thrilled to have the MLS Champions and Robbie Keane play at Tallaght....
“Shamrock Rovers are delighted to be playing host to LA Galaxy at Tallaght. We very much look forward to welcoming everyone from the club here, and particularly to welcoming Robbie Keane home. We know Robbie spends a lot of time in the area when he’s home from the US, so I’m sure it will be great for him to finally play in Tallaght Stadium.
“We have had quite a few great players grace the Tallaght Stadium pitch against us, including Ronaldo and Del Piero, but to have our own local footballing hero play here will be even more special. It should be a great occasion.
Secondly is the fact that the reigning Champions of MLS, the LA Galaxy were coming to town. Walking around Dublin you would see a few LA jerseys being worn by fans. Thirdly the proud Shamrock Rovers supporters wanted to attend Tallaght Stadium for this event.

The event was sold out. 6,000 fans packed Tallaght stadium to view this event. This is almost double the hoops average attendance during a league game. More events like this should be scheduled to promote the clubs and the league itself.

Maybe the League could promote itself overseas, like play in NEw York Red Bull Stadium or in Boston.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Euro 2016 qualifying

         It is never too early to think about the national team and their chances of advancing to France for Euro 2016. During the draw I was thinking anyone but Germany or Spain. Oh well Ireland drew Germany…so be it. The exciting part of this qualification is the tournament has been expanded to 24 nations. This means the top 2 teams in each group advance directly. The 3rd place team will enter into a home/away play-off with one other 3rd place finished for the last 5 spots.

Martin            The Republic of Ireland started the campaign in 2014 with a new skipper at the helm. Martin O’Neil was born in Northern Ireland, and played MF, mostly for Nottingham Forest 1997-81. He also had 64 Caps for the Northern Ireland national team. He was the captain of the Northern Irish team that qualified for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Northern Ireland won their group of Spain, Yugoslavia and Honduras. They were knocked out by France in the second round. Martin turned into an excellent coach. He managed EPL sides Leicester City, SPL side Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland to name a few. Once hired as the Republic of Ireland’s manager he recruited the tenacious Roy Keane. So far so good….however the Irish faithful have high aspirations for their team.

            Presently Ireland is in a three way tie for second place with perennial power Germany and our Celtic northern neighbor Scotland. Ireland has tied Germany on the road which is good…..however beating them at home would be awesome. Ireland has played Scotland away and lost that tight match 0-1. So we have both nations at home. The bad part is Ireland has not played group leader Poland yet. Poland has scored 15 goals so far and have given up the least with only conceding 2.

            This is not a bad spot since Ireland has already played Germany and Scotland away. Ireland better get their point while they can…since the last 2 games will probably be the hardest. Germany at home and then Poland away. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Early League of Ireland predictions

       well...the odds makers are always trying for us to place a bet and lose our money..

        They have Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and St Pat all at 5/2. All 3 will earn the extra money by playing in the international tournaments. The Lillywhites will be representing the league in the EUFA Champions League. They will find out June 22, 2015 as to who they will be playing. They second round (which they have already qualified for) will be played July 14 or 15 and July 22, 23. Dundalk did lose their leading scorer in Pat Hoban 

Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic and Cork City will all play and receive the international money from the Europa League. I believe all four budgets will be the highest in the league. Presently these 4 are the odds on favorite to win the League. Cork City has longer odds but I see that changing with a few veteran players that will boost their roster.

The only other club I see challenging is Sligo Rovers at 11/1. They usually have a decent budget and the challengers fall off from here.

Derry City just signed a veteran F in Anthony Edling. This rugged, 6 foot 2 inch gifted goal scorer has had success in the league before and Derry is hoping this Englishman can score for them.

Some Irish fans

Here is a little cutie!

This Irish fan is showing a little Viking heritage....

Boobs and soccer---i like them both..

Add caption

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Southern Clubs League of Ireland 2015 preview

     The Southern Clubs

       There are 12 Premier clubs fighting for the glory of the Championship of the League of Ireland. Here is a quick look at the 12 clubs broken into my 3 geographical areas. The Dublin Area, the Northern clubs and the Southern Clubs.  I am listing them as where I think they will place at the end of year.

The Southern Clubs
Avg Attendance 2014
Cork City FC
 Turners Cross
Limerick FC
Markets Field
Galway United
Deacy Park
Longford Town
City Calling Stadium

Cork City FC has had fantastic attendance last year with an average of 3,777. They were also in the title hunt until the last game of the season. Many followers claim that Turners Cross is the “best” venue to take in a League of Ireland game.  They have a nice clean stadium that is the only all seater stadium in the League. The stadium has about 7,458 capacity. They also play on a beautiful grass pitch. Cory City is the second largest city located with in the Republic of Ireland. This year City’s faithful will enjoy the bonus money from the international competition (Europa tournament) this summer and welcome their opponent eagerly. I believe Cork will sign a healthy group of players they will need for the Europe League games and the season of 2015.

Limerick FC has finally returned to their spiritual home of Markets Field. Thomond Park was beautiful rugby stadium but average attendance of fewer than 1,000 . This made the Thomond Park (26,600) seem like every game it was empty. So for all of those who say “build it they will come”----your wrong. Limerick FC fans and players alike will enjoy playing in their true home field. Market’s field which has a capacity of 3,000 will be so much cozier to watch a game for Limerick’s faithful. Limerick FC will be looking forward to the big Munster derby against Cork City this year.

Galway United is finally back in the Premier League. Galway is one of the big 4 urban areas in the Republic of Ireland. It is important for the league to constantly have a presence in this city. Sligo has been flying the banner for county Connaught by itself. The entire county could the exposure from another club to represent Connaught. Galway United are owned by their supporters and have had a rough time organizing and agreeing on a single club. Galway had a great run at the end of the 2014 season and placed 3rd. They entered into a home/away playoff against perennial power Shelbourne. They shut them out 2-0 at home. Then traveled to Dublin and won again 2-1. This qualified them for a playoff against UCD. They again won both games 5-1 aggregate. This was a tremendous accomplishment for the club and supporters alike.                                                                                  Galway United will play at Eamonn Deacy Park  that usually has one of the best pitched in the entire League of Ireland. Galway last played in the Premier Division in
2011…so they have been absent for the last 3 years. Look for Galway to get their feet wet this first year back and play with a very young team. Look for First Division player of the year nominee Ryan Connolly to conduct the attack in the middle. Ryan is 5’10’’ will look to connect to top American FW Jack Keegan.

 Longford Town yes ..I know Longford is more North than all the Dublin Clubs. I just wanted to break my groups up into 4 team groups. I wanted to place Bray Wanders with the Dublin Clubs since of their close proximity…….SORRY!!!! Longford Town FC does have 2 FAI Cup. They won back to back titles in 2003 and 04. They did win the League of Ireland First Division and that was last year. Longford Town FC attendance and interest is the least in the league. Lets see if they can come close to the league average in attendance. That would be nice.

League of Ireland 2015 quick preview The Northern Clubs

   There are 12 Premier clubs fighting for the glory of the Championship of the League of Ireland. Here is a quick look at the 12 clubs broken into my 3 geographical areas. The Dublin Area, the Northern clubs and the Southern Clubs.  I am listing them as where I think they will place at the end of year.

The Northern Clubs
Avg attendance (2014)
Dundalk F.C
 Oriel Park
Sligo Rovers FC
Derry F.C.
Drogheda United
 United Park

                League of Ireland 2015 –a quick view of the Northern Clubs
                Well we have the defending Champions of 2014 Dundalk. This was Dundalk’s 10th Championship. They are one of only 4 clubs that can put a gold star -to represent 10 Championship’s after their name.  The other 3 clubs reside in the Dublin area. The Lillywhites will again be led by the 23 year old Richie Towell. He was the catalyst in the middle...pictured below. Dundalk has a young team and management spent the biggest budget of any club. Since they will be playing internationally this summer and collecting participation money (about 120,000) I again see Dundalk opening their purse strings and challenging for another title.
Richie Towell will be back in 2015.

Sligo Rovers won the league as recently as 2012. Sligo has also won the FAI Cup 2010, 2011 and 2013. Sligo has had the added bonus of the international prize money to support the club the last 4 years. This year will be different. Sligo missed out on the very desirable international play, so will not have the money from that participation. Sligo Rovers are spending big on their continued development of the Showgrounds. They are owner by their supporters and incorporate their entire community. They have built their stadium one stand at a time. Their stadium is installing a state of the art full weather pitch, and all grass pitch and 2 5 vs 5 playing surfaces within the Showgrounds facility. The total cost is close to 500,000 Euro's.

Derry City is the only club from Northern Ireland. They play in Brandywell Stadium and which was recently granted 5M in funding from the government. (Northern Ireland).  The money will revamp the entire stadium which will be something every supporter will look forward to. Derry has been in 2 of the last 3 FAI Cups. Winning one of them. The candy stripers will be looking for success and their new stadium.

Drogheda United does not have a long history of success however their success is most recent. In the 2007 season the Drog’s won the trifecta….winning the League of Ireland, the FAI Cup and the Setanta Cup. These Northern Clubs add great competition to the League.