The Season Ticket
LOI | All you need to know ahead of the 2018/19 season
When does it begin? The 2018/19 season kicks off on Friday night. Cork City will begin their title defence with a trip to St. Patrick's Athletic, while Dundalk face Bray Wanderers at Oriel Park. Bohemians host Shamrock Rovers in a Dublin derby (live on RTÉ2), and Sligo Rovers and newly promoted Waterford United host Limerick and Derry City respectively.
Who will win the title? Cork City won the domestic double last year, and beat rivals Dundalk in the President's Cup last weekend. John Caulfield's side will be aiming to win back-to-back titles for the first time in 67 years, but the Lilywhites will provide strong competition. The likes of Derry City and Shamrock Rovers will be hoping to break into the top two, but expect Cork and Dundalk to fight it out for the title again this season.
Who could face relegation? After making a fantastic start to last season, Bray Wanderers have endured a chaotic period. Their loss of players and lack of finances could see them locked in a relegation battle. Limerick are another team who have lost players (and their manager) in the off-season, and could struggle. It could also be a big step up for First Division champions Waterford.
The format The FAI have tinkered with the format of the league. There will be 10 teams in the Premier Division, with only one automatic relegation as opposed to last year's three. These 10 teams are Bray Wanderers, Bohemians, Cork City, Derry City, Dundalk, Limerick, Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers, St. Patrick's Athletic and newly promoted Waterford United. Each team will play 36 matches in the top flight. There will now be two extra teams in the First Division as a result, and the method of promotion has also changed. The team who finish bottom of the league will be relegated, with the team finishing ninth entering a play-off against the winners of a clash between the First Division runners-up and the winners of a third vs fourth place play-off. The aim of this new format is to make the league more competitive, and to offer incentive to the chasing pack in the First Division. Last season, for example, Waterford United ran away with the First Division title, leaving little hope for the teams beneath them.
Five new signings to watch Ronan Murray: Dundalk have lost David McMillan, but have snapped up prolific Galway United striker Ronan Murray, and he showed a sign of things to come with a brace in the President's Cup. Expect the 26 year old to score plenty of goals this season. Barry McNamee: Cork City have strengthened their midfield with the signing of Barry McNamee from Derry City. The 25 year old will bring quality and creativity to the Leesiders midfield, and could be a key player for the champions. Adam Morgan: Sligo Rovers have brought in former Liverpool forward Adam Morgan, who has the potential to be prolific in the Premier Division. You can read more about the Bit o' Red's new striker here. Joey O'Brien: Former Bolton and Republic of Ireland defender Joey O'Brien has joined Shamrock Rovers ahead of the new season. The experienced full back will be a key player for the Hoops if they are to challenge the top two this year. Krisztian Adorjan: Stephen Kenny has taken former Liverpool youth Adorjan to Oriel Park. The Hungarian native is good technically, with an eye for goal, and could be a key player for the Lilywhites following Patrick McEleny's departure.
Familiar faces Two former fan favourites have returned to the league. Dundalk striker Pat Hoban, whose goals helped the Lilywhites to their first title under Stephen Kenny, has returned to the club after a few years in English football. He will be hoping to form a deadly partnership with Ronan Murray up front. Graham Cummins has also returned to Cork City. The 30 year old scored the goal which sealed the First Division title for the Leesiders, and will be expected to somewhat fill the void left by the departure of Sean Maguire.
Key dates FAI Cup final will take place on Sunday, November 4th. The EA Sports League Cup final is set for September 15th.