State of play - LOI at the summer break

15th November 2023

As the hit HBO TV series Succession came to an end in Spring 2023, parallels are drawn to those trying to replace long standing defending Champions in Shamrock Rovers who are looking for their fourth straight title.

Battle for the title 
As the hit HBO TV series Succession came to an end in Spring 2023, parallels are drawn to those trying to replace long standing defending Champions in Shamrock Rovers who are looking for their fourth straight SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division title. 
There is three contenders to the be the heir here after the first half of the season with Derry City, St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians fighting amongst themselves to be the main challenger. 
However, as they continued to take points off each other in recent weeks or slipped to unexpected losses, Shamrock Rovers have found themselves four points clear at the top when at times they seemed to be faltering amidst a bizarre occurrence of red cards and defeats. 
Just as they had the chance to go four points clear themselves, Derry City made a nearly fatal slip away to a struggling Sligo Rovers side which must still hurt Ruaidhri Higgins’ men. 
Bohs will be glad to find themselves in the conversation as where they sit now is surely on the trajectory of where Declan Devine would have liked to have been before the start of the season. 
Was their scintillating form at the start of the season over achieving or will they be able to return to that level? They have struggled of late to pick up wins but if they were to pick up a win on their return they will blow the title race wide open once more. 
That fixture is a clash with arch rivals Shamrock Rovers which is live on RTÉ2 and having lost both games to them already this season, they will be going all out to reignite their challenge. 
St Pat’s have found themselves back in the conversation following a superb run under Jon Daly after Tim Clancy’s departure but we will see in the returning weeks whether this is a strong new Manager bounce or will they falter.
St Pat’s hierarchy see themselves in title contention and similarly to both Bohs and Rovers, they face an eagerly anticipated Dublin Derby against Shelbourne who like Bohs will be looking to avoid a third straight loss to their Dublin rivals. 
Race for Europe
Shels will see themselves in the race for Europe, but the race is currently being led by Pat’s and Bohs while Dundalk and the Reds chase them down. 
The unknown in the race is the transfer window which opens on July 1 and as new investment arriving into Drumcondra, it remains to be seen whether this will affect prospects for Damien Duff’s side. 
With the the best defence in the Division, some new attacking flair added to the return of talisman Sean Boyd could be an interesting combination as Shels sit just six points of second with a game in hand and a lot of football to be played. 
Bohs have stated their target is European football and Dundalk will be looking to regain their Euro status as they recover from a slate of injuries but a big win away to Cork City before the break has given them new impetus. 
Dundalk, of course, will learn their European opponents on June 20, and it will be interesting to see if they will be affected by a run in Europe as the navigate the Cup, League and Europe as will St Pat’s. 
Sligo Rovers will have fancied themselves before the start of the season for a return to Europe but sitting just two points above the Relegation Play-Off spot it would be a fairly miraculous second half of the season to end up on the continent next year. 
Fight for survival 
Though many may believe that UCD are falling further and further into the grips of the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division, who will end up in the Relegation Play-Off spot is anyone’s guess. 
As Cork City returned to some form following the introduction of Liam Buckley into the Club and Richie Holland as Caretaker Manager, Drogheda United have shown a remarkable resilience with impressive wins over Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic. 
Drogheda United have demonstrated serious talent with the likes of Darragh Markey, Freddie Draper and Dayle Rooney impressing but in Ruairi Keating, Cork City have one of the best strikers in the League of Ireland. 
As they both improve, Sligo Rovers have faltered and unfortunately for them, are in the conversation now. 
The transfer window will tell its own story and if Freddie Draper can remain at Weavers Park it’ll be one of the hardest battles to call with a serious amount of jeopardy given the size of the Clubs and perhaps more importantly the size of the potential Clubs in the Play-Off from the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division. 
Race for Promotion 
Waterford will still harbour hopes but Galway United must be starting to think about their long awaited return to the top flight of Irish football.
Sitting ten points clear at the top and having beaten Waterford twice along the way, it would be one of the most impressive comebacks in League of Ireland history if John Caulfield’s men were to not win the 2023 title. 
Still, since Keith Long has come into the job, the blues have recorded several wins with high margins of victory remain ready to pounce on any mistakes. 
As the likes of Athlone Town, Cobh Ramblers and Bray Wanderers fight it out for the Play-Off spots, you’d have to fancy Waterford to come out on top of the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division Play-Off series. 
This would set up an almighty Play-Off with one of the three aforementioned Clubs with momentum possibly playing an important part on who ends up in which Division. 
Peamount United remain team to knock off the top 
With the SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division coming down to the final day last season, we could see something similar again this year but Peamount United are doing their very vest to ensure they win what would be their most impressive ever League title. 
This comes after massive wins away to both Shamrock Rovers and two time defending Champions Shelbourne. 
As we gear up for the inaugural Avenir Sports All-Island Cup, when League action returns all eyes will be on Peamount and if they slip up where both Shels and Shamrock Rovers will be ready to pounce. 
Though they may have slipped up, Shels, they have retained a toughness that still sees them in the race and they marked out their claim with a massive 5-0 win over Wexford Youths who must be disappointed with their return given the addition of Rianna Jarrett and Emily Corbet to their ranks before the start of the season. 
Shels, however, will lose Jessie Stapleton to West Ham this summer but as ever, the emergence of youth may prove to be their revival as Hannah Healy has broken onto the scene just in time. 
Shamrock Rovers will be smarting after their first loss of the season but their return to the Women’s top flight has been impressive regardless and with just one defeat, they know if they add goals they will prove a difficult object to move week in week out.