Premier Division Club-by-club ... Emmet Malone



Manager: Pat Fenlon.

GIVEN THEY have added quality in key areas and brought in a manager with a knack for winning the league, it's hard to imagine that the Dubliners won't be right up there among the leaders over the course of the season.

Whether they can go all the way and lift the title will depend to some extent on whether Jason Byrne takes up where he left off at Shelbourne, but if he does, Fenlon can get Neale Fenn going again and the defence holds up the way if did for much of the last season then they might just go close.

Players In: Killian Brennan and Ken Oman (both Derry City), Jason Byrne (Cardiff City), Glenn Cronin (Chester City), Chris Konopka (Kansas City Wizards, pending a visa).

Players Out: Dessie Byrne (St Patrick's Athletic), Dean Pooley (Ballymena United), Chris Kingsberry (Lisburn Distillery), Davitt Walsh (Ballymena United), Ryan McCann (Queen Of The South), Mark O'Brien (Shelbourne), Stephen Rice (Shamrock Rovers), Alan Blayney, Dean Richardson and Conor Rafferty (all released).

Last five years: 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 9th, 3rd.

Betting. To win the league: 7/2; to be relegated: 40/1.

Bray Wanderers

Manager: Eddie Gormley.

HAVING LOOKED lightweight in midfield and attack last season, Bray have been beefed up a little over the course of the close season. Andy Myler and Ger Rowe should ensure more goals while Gavin Whelan will bring experience to the midfield.

They've seen some decent players move on too, however, and the loss of figures like Steve Williams, Clive Delaney and Chris Deans will be felt even if the big central defender's departure is in part compensated for by the arrival of Kevin Doherty.

Will be aiming for mid-table and if the strikers click then they have a chance of pulling it off.

Players In: Gavin Whelan (Drogheda United), Gavin McInerney (returning from the United States), Kevin Doherty (Longford Town), Derek Foran (St Patrick's Athletic), Ger Rowe, Andy Myler, Derek Pender (all Shamrock Rovers), Paddy Mahon (Kildare County).

Players Out: Clive Delaney (Derry City), James O'Shea (Galway United), Steve Williams, Chris Deans, Paul Caffrey, Derek Tyrell, David O'Sullivan (all Sporting Fingal), John Broderick (Kildare County on loan), Stephen Gough and Ross Zambra (released).

Last five years: 2nd, 3rd (both in first division), 7th, 10th, 9th.

Betting. To win the league: 150/1; to be relegated: Evens.

Cobh Ramblers

Manager: Stephen Henderson.

RAMBLERS STORMED through the bulk of last year's promotion winning season thanks to formidable home form and the goals of Davin O'Neill and Graham Cummins.

Stephen Henderson has done well to keep everyone at the club but the quality of his young squad will now be tested a little more severely.

Critical to avoiding the drop will be their ability to keep winning games at home.

If they can do that then they'll be in with a shout but if they suffer a few setbacks early on then maintaining morale may prove difficult and the bookies' odds would start to look justified.

Players In: Shane Guthrie and Ray Lally (both Cork City ), Alan Kearney (Waterford United), Jamie Wunsch (from the United States), Anthony Fennelly (unattached).

Players Out: None.

Last five years: 8th, 8th, 3rd, 4th, 1st (all in first division).

Betting. To win the league: 250/1; to be relegated: 2/9.

Cork City

Manager: Alan Mathews.

INCONSISTENCY has been City's main problem since winning the league three seasons ago and Alan Mathews has sought to address the problem by adding depth to the squad while bringing in another established goalscorer in the person of Dave Mooney.

The return of Danny Murphy and George O'Callaghan will go down well with fans while Dave Mulcahy looks a good signing and if the club's wealth of midfield talent can be successfully accommodated then they should be well capable of improving substantially on last year's league showing.

Players In: Dave Mooney and Pat Sullivan (both Longford Town), George O'Callaghan (Ipswich Town), Dave Mulcahy (Waterford United), Tim Kiely (Kilkenny City), Danny Murphy (Motherwell), Alan O'Connor (Rockmount), John Tierney (Limerick 37).

Players Out: Brian O'Callaghan (Halifax Town), Leon McSweeney (Stockport County), Shane Guthrie and Ray Lally (both Cobh Ramblers), Cathal Lordan (released).

Last five years: 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 4th, 4th.

Betting. To win the league: 7/2; to be relegated: 40/1.

Derry City

Manager: Stephen Kenny.

AFTER A difficult year in Scotland, Stephen Kenny returns with the aim of picking up where he left off in terms of Derry City's development. He still has, he points out, eight of the 11 players that started the cup final for him 15 months ago while the addition of Conor Sammon, Darren Quigley and Steven Gray brings fresh blood to the squad.

Most of last year's new arrivals have departed again, as have David Forde, Darren Kelly and Gary Beckett - all important contributors during Kenny's first spell at the Brandywell - but it is the combined loss of Ken Oman and Killian Brennan that is likely to be most acutely felt over the coming months.

Still, if the new goalkeepers do well and at least one of the striker recovers his touch in front of goal, City look more serious challengers than the betting might suggest.

Players In: Connor Sammon (UCD), Aaron Callaghan (Ballymena United), Gerard Doherty (TNS), Niall McGinn (Dungannon Swifts), Darren Quigley (UCD), Steven Gray (Drogheda United), Clive Delaney (Bray Wanderers), Owen Morrison (Dunfermline Athletic).

Players Out: Killian Brennan and Ken Oman (both Bohemians), Alan Moore and Pat Jennings (Sligo Rovers), Gary Beckett (Finn Harps), Neil McCafferty (Grays Athletic), Peter Hynes (Released), Dave McEwan (Released), Olaf Tidman (Konseinger, Norway, on loan).

Last five years: 9th, 7th, 2nd, 2nd, 7th.

Betting. To win the league: 7/1; to be relegated: 16/1.

Drogheda United

Manager: Paul Doolin.

THE GREATEST achievement during Paul Doolin's time in charge of United has been the steady, consistent improvement of the squad until it became capable of mounting a successful title challenge.

But now they're all league winners keeping them happy as new players are accommodated may prove even more of a problem for the manager.

Having won the title so well last year, though, United are clearly the team to beat as the new campaign gets under way.

Being champions can weigh sides down but there is great strength of character about the group and a couple of important players coming back from injury.

Sean Prunty's heart scare has created a little uncertainty as to how well fixed they are at left back but Joe Kendrick did well last week against Cliftonville while elsewhere there are plenty of good options.

Players In: Shaun Maher (Bournemouth), Adam Hughes (Sligo Rovers), Sean Prunty (Longford Town), Joe Kendrick (Darlington), Jamie Ewings (Albion Rovers), Ibrahima Thiam Iyane (UR Namur).

Players Out: Stephen Bradley (Falkirk), Mark Leech (Galway United), Gavin Whelan (Bray Wanderers), Stephen Gray (Derry City), Damian Lynch (St Patrick's Athletic), James Keddy (Shelbourne).

Last five years: 8th, 4th, 4th, 3rd, 1st.

Betting. To win the league: 2/1; to be relegated: 66/1.

Finn Harps

Manager: Paul Hegarty.

THE DECISION by the Donegalmen to go full-time is a bold one and the hope is that they don't encounter a difficult start followed by the sort of drop off in support that has previously left them having to alter their plans mid-season.

In Paul Hegarty they have a bright young manager who has added both experience and quality during the close season but it remains to be seen whether there will be quite enough of either to enable the Ballybofey outfit to avoid being sucked into what promises to be a particularly cut throat relegation battle.

Players In: Aaron Labonte (Dunfermline Athletic), Gary Beckett (Derry City ), Gerry Gill (Moville), Stuart Malcolm (Shelbourne), Marc Mukendi (Free Agent), Shaun Williams (Drogheda United on loan).

Players Out: Paddy McLaughlin (Coleraine), Declan Divin (Institute), Seamus Brown (Crusaders), John O'Loughlin (Institute).

Last five years: 3rd, 1st (both first division), 12th (premier), 6th, 2nd (both first division).

Betting. To win the league: 100/1; to be relegated: 8/15.

Galway United

Manager: Tony Cousins.

THE AIM here is to finish in the top six but on the face of it United's season could really go either way with a stronger squad than last year's capable of pushing on and starting to clip at the heels of the country's best sides or perhaps slipping back a bit.

A couple of winless runs last year almost landed Tony Cousins's side in real trouble and the team must, for a start, develop a knack for beating the teams below them if they are to steer clear of the dogfight.

Players In: James O'Shea (Bray Wanderers), Gary Deegan ( Longford Town ), Mark Leech (Drogheda United), Marc McCullough (Shelbourne), Alvin Rouse (Monaghan United), Ollie Fenn (Ipswich Town ).

Players Out: Alan Murphy, Liam McKenna, Barry Moran, David Cooke, Shaun Fagan, Phillip Reilly, Iarflaith Davoren (all released).

Last five years: 7th, 5th, 5th, 3rd (all first division), 8th.

Betting. To win the league: 50/1; to be relegated: 100/30.

St Patrick's Athletic

Manager: John McDonnell.

HAVING MADE the sweetest of starts to the campaign last year, the Inchicore outfit proved a bit too erratic to maintain the pace set by Drogheda and they weren't particularly helped by the mid-season comings and goings.

The close season arrivals, though, definitely look to have improved the squad significantly even if their hopes of getting a proven goalscorer in didn't quite come off. If their existing strikers can produce the goods in the bigger games and the new signings gel then there's more than enough here to mount a more sustained challenge.

Players In: Joe O Cearuill (Barnet), Jamie Harris (Dunfermline Athletic), David Partridge (Brentford), Dessie Byrne (Shelbourne), Bobby Ryan (Dunfermline Athletic), Damian Lynch (Drogheda United), Gary Dempsey (Yeovil Town ).

Players Out: Michael Foley (Waterford United), Anthony Murphy (Sligo Rovers), Billy Gibson (Clyde), Darragh Maguire (Shamrock Rovers), Barry Slattery (Kildare County), Luke Fitzpatrick (Waterford United), Sean O'Connor (Shamrock Rovers), Derek Foran (Bray Wanderers), Colm Foley (retired).

Last five years: 5th, 8th, 10th, 7th, 2nd.

Betting: To win the league: 4/1; To be relegated: 33/1.

Shamrock Rovers

Manager: Pat Scully.

BESET BY injuries to important players and the youthfulness of the squad, Rovers ran out of steam last year after having surprised a good many onlookers with the quality of their football and their fearlessness in the face of apparently better equipped sides.

Though still not in a position to really compete with the top sides for the best players, Pat Scully has made what looks to be good signings over the winter. Darragh Maguire, in particular, was outstanding last season for St Patrick's while Dessie Baker would add a lot to the mix if he can maintain the form shown during his last campaign at Longford.

Players In: Darragh Maguire and Sean O'Connor (both St Patrick's Athletic), Dessie Baker (Longford Town), Stephen Rice (Bohemians), Pat Flynn (Waterford United), Darren Stapleton (Kildare County), Alan Murphy (Galway United).

Players Out: Paul Shiels, Ian Ryan, David Cassidy and Jamie Duffy (all Dundalk), Robbie Clarke (Waterford United), Derek Pender, Andy Myler and Ger Rowe (all Bray Wanderers), David McGill (Shelbourne), John McGuinness (released).

Last five years: 7th, 9th, 11th (premier), 1st (first division), 5th.

Betting: To win the league: 16/1; to be relegated: 8/1.

Sligo Rovers

Manager: Paul Cooke.

LIKE GALWAY, Sligo Rovers will have hopes of significantly raising their game over last year but a lot will depend on how good the new signings are. Mauro Almeida and Romauld Boco, in particular, are unknown quantities while the hope will be that Paul Cooke can get more out Alan Moore than anybody at Derry City did.

The loss of Adam Hughes is a blow but there will be some relief that Mathew Judge and Fahrudin Kudozovic have been kept at the Showgrounds. If the pair continue to develop as a partnership you would imagine there would be enough to the team in other departments to steer them clear of relegation.

Players In: Anthony Murphy (St Patrick's Athletic), Mauro Almeida and Romauld Boco (Accrington Stanley), Alan Moore (Derry City), Pat Jennings (Derry City on loan), Chris Butler (Barrow AFC), Sean Doherty (Royal Antwerp), Steve Feeney (Unattached).

Players Out: Adam Hughes (Drogheda United), Mark Boyd (Barrow AFC), James Meredith (Shrewsbury Town), Stephen Manson (Cowdenbeath), Tomislav Arcaba (released).

Last five years: 6th, 7th, 1st (all first division), 5th, 6th.

Betting. To win the league: 40/1; to be relegated: 7/2.


Manager: Pete Mahon.

NOT FOR the first time, UCD are being written off with the loss of several leading players prompting the bookies to make the students second favourites to go down.

Certainly the likes of Conor Sammon, Shane McFaul and Conan Byrne will be missed and Pete Mahon hasn't been able to shop for replacements. The manager readily concedes it will be a "very difficult year" but hopes players like Timmy Purcell, Greg Bolger and James O'Sullivan can build on early promise, while the return from long-term injury of Derek Doyle has the potential to prove a major boost.

Players In: John Reilly (Longford Town).

Players Out: Darren Quigley and Connor Sammon (Derry City), Shane McFaul (Brighton), Conan Byrne (Sporting Fingal), Paul Crowley (Dundalk), Tony McDonnell (retired).

Last five years: 10th (premier), 2nd (first division), 9th, 6th, 10th.

Betting. To win the league: 250/1; to be relegated: 1/2.

Betting courtesy of Paddy Power