Saturday, January 7, 2017

League of Ireland 2016 in review


    The year is review is about Dundalk, Dundalk and more Dundalk. 1st Dundalk won 3rd title in a row. This is a huge achievement since it is so hard to keep the same roster from they year before. They started out front and remained there all year.....very similar to the previous year. Cork chased them all year just like the previous year. They (Dundalk) also reached the FAI Cup final for the 2nd year in a row. Cork City who placed 2nd for 3 years in a row finally beat Dundalk F.C. in the 2016 FAI Cup final. The final had a huge turnout of 26,400 spectators. This was second best at the Aviva since it was built in 2010. (1st FAI Cup Final in the Aviva).

            Cork City, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers will all be playing in the Europa League 2017-18. These teams will earn about half their budget playing international games so they all will be favorites to challenge for the League title in 2017.

Limerick FC won the First division and they will play in the premier division in 2017. Longford Town will be regulated to the First Division. Wexford Youths lost the playoff games to Drogheda United. Drogheda U will play in the Premier League to keep the League fresh will 2 new clubs.


            Top scorers: The top scorer was Cork City’s  Sean Maguire. He was followed closely by Derry City’s Rory Patterson and Dundalk’s David McMillan. Not 
surprising all their clubs will be playing in Europe next year. 


 Stephen Kenney phenomenal coaching Dundalk to their 3 consecutive Championships. He also guided them in 3 rounds of the Champions league and group stage of the Europa League. He turned Dundalk around in 2013 after a 4-8-18 in 2012 record. They were supposed to be regulated. Monaghan United withdrew from the league saving Dundalk Premier League status. Kenney led his players to a 2nd place in 2013; thus qualifying them for Europe League games and money Dundalk spends wisely to acquire players.  

Player of the year: Daryl Hogan was named Player of the year. Stephen Kenney was named manager of the year. Other outstanding players who were nominated for POTY were Stephen O’Donnell (Dunalk), Sean Maguire(Cork), Greg Bolger (Cork) and Gerard Doherty GK (Derry City).


European Success: Dundalk entered the Champions League and beat Iceland Champion. Third qualifying round they had to play Belarus Champion BATE Borisov. They beat them 3-1 aggregate. Dundalk then entered the Champions Route against Polish giant Legia Warsaw. This game was so big Dundalk had to play in Dublin’s Aviva stadium. 30,417 fans showed in the Aviva to cheer on Dundalk in Europe’s Champions League. Unfortunatly this is where Dundalk fairy tail play ended in the Champions League. The losers at this stage get placed in the group stage of the Europa League.

Dundalk was seeded into this formittable group. Zenit Saint Perersburg were a great team and their fans were as scary as their team. Many Russian Zenit fans followed thier team to Tallaght stadium and made quite a spectacle of themselves. Dundalk play very well against all this competition but the wear and tear finally caught Dundalk. This was the most spectatular season any LOI club ever had.

Money Earned: It is estimated Dundalk earned $5.4 Million in the Champions League. By enter into the group stage of the Europa League they earned 360,000 for their win and 120,000 for their tie. After astronomical expenses Dundalk will pocket 2.5 to 3 Million of the $5.4 Million earned. Their priority is to sort out the lease with the owner of Oriel Park. They will make no investment. The thought is the will but the Park from the owner, and place a new pitch before they invest in a new stand. They will invest in their youth development plan and try to keep Stephen Kenney who has guided this miraculous run since 2013.


Finally a few stories in 2016 that did not involve Dundalk...

Stadium redevelopment: Tallaght Stadium just got the go ahead to add a 3rd stand behind one of the goals. This will make Tallaght a UEFA category 4 stadium enabling any LOI club play European matches there if need be. When Dundalk played in the Europa Group stage against Russia, Netherlands and Isreal clubs Tallaght was near capacity. Maybe the council are hoping there can be a repeat each year for other LOI teams!?!?!?
Artist picture of Tallaght Stadium 3rd stand. to make Tallaght a UEFA Category 4 Stadium (8,128 capacity)

League Restructuring
Yes most of the talk about the League is about Dundalk FC. Dundalk 3 League Title in a row, the Champions League success, the Europe League group game win and tie and the money windfall from such progress.  There were a few other stories like being player of the year in Dundalk leaving for England. There was Corks City’s frustrating 3 years of chasing Dundalk and not catching them.
           There is also talk about contracting the Premier division going from 12 to 10 clubs and the first division increasing for 8 clubs to 10.  There is a huge push back from Premier Clubs resisting this change. Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, Sligo Rovers and Derry City were in favor of reducing to 10 teams. I find it funny that 4 out of the 5 clubs that want to reduce to 10 are the ones playing in the European tournaments. As we all know they clubs boost up their roster since they will have more money for playing in the European tournaments. The teams that against dropping 3 out of the league at the end of this year are the clubs that are in jeopardy of failing to remain in the Premier division.


Avg Att
Attendance is also reached a 10 year low with average attendance at only 1,472 for the 2016 season. This is troubling at face value. There was a drop off with the league leaders and the lower teams. I believe 2017 will bounce back to 1,500 average. First the 2 lowest clubs were regulated. Limerick averaged attendance was above the premier league average in the first division so they will help immediately. Also Dundalk and Cork never seem to relinquish their old on the #1 and #2 spots. The almost repeat of the 2015 season got a little old for the followers and it stayed that way all year. This did not create excitement in other clubs when teams change position in the standings.

Outlook: Well I believe the teams who have the bigger budgets will get the better players. Since about 1/2 the budget can come from the Europa League and exponentially more from the Champions League--- look for Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Cork City to be the favorites at the start of the season. Limerick F.C will be a nice addition back with just the City drawing more attention to the league. Drogheda United will bring back the Louth Derby. Doesnt sound to exciting but i dont care.... I like the LEaguie of Ireland...why ...well I am Irish. I dont care about the Premier League.... I like this League. I like the history behind it, I like the clubs that play in it and i Like the fans that support it.  I am hoping for another Club like Dundalk to make the 3rd round in the Champions League and pack the Aviva again.