Club by club guide to the Airtricity League Premier Division

The 2013 campaign gets underway later tonight.

Club by club guide to the Airtricity League Premier Division


Manager: Aaron Callaghan

Star man: Owen Heary

One to follow: Derek Pender (@detser)

With a sizeable proportion of his squad making their initial sojourn, 2012’s seventh place finish was a decent result for Aaron Callaghan. The budget at Dalymount Park is tight and apart from a fistful of seasoned campaigners, the team is packed full of youth. Owen Heary says this is his last season in the league and doubling up as assistant manager, he will have a crucial role in guiding the promising new boys. Mid-table is most likely again.

Prediction: Eighth

Bray Wanderers

Manager: Pat Devlin

Star man: Kieran Waters

One to follow: Gary Dempsey (@dempz8)

Pat Devlin has a certain Marmite reputation within the league, but there is no arguing how important he has been to Bray Wanderers down the years. Again, they head into the new season tipped for a struggle near the bottom, but keeping hold of classy midfielder Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters and reacquiring Gary Dempsey from Waterford will strengthen their hand. Home form will be crucial to keeping them out of the danger zone, but they could well be facing a testing year.

Prediction: 10th

Cork City

Manager: Tommy Dunne

Star man: Colin Healy

One to follow: Daryl Kavanagh (@DarylKavanagh)

After starting 2012 slowly on their return to the top table, Cork City boss Tommy Dunne has been adamant they won’t be sluggish out of the blocks this time. And after a pre-season which has seen them advance to the semis of the Setanta Cup, along with some decent additions, such as striker Daryl Kavanagh, they will be expected to push for a spot in the top four. If key players can stay injury free, a charge at Europe won’t be out of their reach.

Prediction: Fourth

Derry City

Manager: Declan Devine

Star man: Ruaidhri Higgins

One to follow: Patrick Kavanagh (@paddykavanagh14)

The FAI Cup holders head into the new campaign without their top two goalscorers from last season, David McDaid and Stephen McLaughlin, while the club’s all-time top scorer Mark Farren has moved to Glenavon. That will mean added pressure on cup final hero Rory Patterson, along with exciting additions Mark Griffin and Michael Rafter. Expect them to end up with similar results to last season — another cup run and midtable in the league.

Prediction: Sixth

Drogheda United

Manager: Mick Cooke

Star man: Declan O’Brien

One to follow: Paul O’Conor (@pauloconor10)

Mick Cooke’s side took everybody by surprise with a runners-up finish last year, coupled with winning the EA Sports Cup, and while teams will have a heightened awareness when it comes to facing them, the resurgence of other sides will likely see Drogs fall down the rankings. However, with a squad of experienced campaigners, they will be targeting a top three finish again.

Prediction: Fifth


Manager: Stephen Kenny

Star man: Mark Rossiter

One to follow: Tiarnan Mulvenna (@tiarnanmul)

Having maintained their Premier Division status with a play-off win over Waterford United, Dundalk have rebuilt in the off- season. After a dismal period at Shamrock Rovers, Stephen Kenny is a man with a point to prove and having previously worked wonders in a similar position with Derry City, the only way is up for the Lilywhites. Some good players have signed on, so expect mid-table security.

Prediction: Seventh


Manager: Stuart Taylor

Star man: Joe Gamble

One to follow: Shane Tracy (@gumsy1108)

The First Division champions will be something of an unknown quantity, with rookie manager Stuart Taylor bringing a raft of new faces with him, including a couple with good CVs cross-channel. It remains to be seen if playing in the vast — and three-quarters empty — confines of Thomond Park can inspire the Blues though. The initial priority will be consolidation but it would be a surprise to see them struggling.

Prediction: Ninth

Shamrock Rovers

Manager: Trevor Croly

Star man: Ronan Finn

One to follow: James Chambers (@jambochambers8)

Last season was a huge disappointment for all concerned with the Hoops — their dreams of three in a row were scuppered early on, there was no repeated success in Europe and Stephen Kenny left as manager by the end of the summer. Trevor Croly has made the move from assistant at St Pat’s to head honcho at Tallaght, and after adding further shining lights, including Mark Quigley and Jason McGuinness from Sligo, to the star-studded squad, nothing short of winning the title back will be accepted by the Rovers faithful.

Prediction: First


Manager: Alan Mathews

Star man: Philly Hughes

One to follow: Brian Shortall (@shorto12)

Shelbourne could well struggle this season, with a tightened budget and the loss of some of their best players in Paddy Kavanagh, David Cassidy and Kevin Dawson. Alan Mathews was engaged in some heated interactions with the Reds’ support during 2012, many of them unhappy with the team’s style of play. Disciplinary problems could get in their way — last season they reached double figures in sendings off and they also had three dismissals in pre-season. Expected to struggle.

Prediction: 12th

Sligo Rovers

Manager: Ian Baraclough

Star man: Joseph Ndo

One to follow: Danny North (@dannynorth27)

The champions will miss the likes of Mark Quigley and Jason McGuinness, who have departed for Shamrock Rovers, but manager Ian Baraclough has made some astute signings from England, including Kieran Djiali and Anthony Elding. They will be hell-bent on putting up a stout defence of their title and while they have a squad capable of doing so, with the other Rovers boasting a stronger squad overall, they might struggle to retain the trophy. Still, they should be next best.

Prediction: Second

St Patrick’s Athletic

Manager: Liam Buckley

Star man: Chris Forrester

One to follow: Ger O’Brien (@gerramia)

After ending 2012 on a low point, with defeat in extra-time of the cup final, the Saints head into 2013 still yearning for their first piece of silverware since 2003’s League Cup triumph. Haven’t won the league since 1999, but Liam Buckley has a good squad to work with and they will be pushing close to the top again. Likely to fall short of the two Rovers, but expect big things from last year’s breakthrough star, Chris Forrester.

Prediction: Third


Manager: Martin Russell

Star man: Dinny Corcoran

One to follow: Samir Belhout (@samir_belhout)

You are guaranteed one thing going to Belfield: the hosts will attempt to play good football. It doesn’t always work out in terms of results, but Martin Russell has a proven record of producing players capable of staying in the Premier Division. Many of last month’s Collingwood Cup-winning team are likely to have a role to play, and while they should just about keep off the bottom, it could be a long season on campus.

Prediction: 11th

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox