As another year of Irish league football comes to an end, the time for reflection for managers, players and fans has arrived. Whether your club has won the league, embarked on a memorable cup run, exceeded expectations or spectacularly failed to live up to them, little will change the love we feel for the club we support. Here’s a round-up of all the Dublin-based Premier Division clubs for the 2014 season.
After retaining their SSE Airtricity Premier Division status in 2013 with a 10th place finish, the Gypsies pushed on in the 2014 season to surprise everyone at Dalymount Park and finish in a commendable 7th place.
Having only secured safety in the final weeks of the 2013 season, this campaign was a far more productive effort under now departed boss, Owen Heary. The 38 year-old, who spent seven years with the Phibsborough based club as a player and manager, guided his team to the latter stages of all three domestic cups. Bohs reached the semi-final stages of the EA Sports Cup, only to lose out to Shamrock Rovers 0-2. The FAI Cup brought more heartache, as the side were narrowly defeated by St Patrick’s Athletic despite threatening a late comeback in their quarter-final tie. The lesser acclaimed Leinster Senior Cup also saw the club excel, before being convincingly beaten by rivals Shamrock Rovers once again at the quarter-final stage.
Dinny Corcoran ended the season as the Gypsies’ top scorer, as he bagged 13 league goals to ensure relegation was never at the forefront of his teammates’ thoughts. Summer signing Jason Byrne also provided the goals for Heary’s men, but at 36 years of age, time is running out for the Dublin-born striker to break the League of Ireland’s all time scoring record of 235 goals, currently held by Brendan Bradley. Byrne still needs just over 20 goals to match Bradley’s feat.
Having previously secured a domestic cup treble in the 2013 campaign, Rovers were expected to improve on their 5th place finish and to challenge for the league title. However, the Hoops were to end another season without qualifying for Europe.
Midway through the season, manager Trevor Croly left the club by mutual consent as the club decided he was no longer the man to take the club forward. Pat Fenlon, the former Hibernian boss, took over the reins as the club desperately tried to secure European football for the first time in four years. With their league form proving indifferent, the cups took on more importance as the club searched for an alternative route into Europe.
The Hoops surrendered their EA Sports Cup to Dundalk, who claimed a 3-2 victory in a pulsating final. The club also lost its grip on their two remaining trophies, as they exited both the Leinster Senior Cup and the Setanta Sports Cup at the semi-final stages. Most painfully, Pat Fenlon’s side saw their last opportunity to qualify for Europe pass them by, as they lost to Derry City in their FAI Cup semi-final replay. The FAI Cup was high on the list of priorities for boss Fenlon, with the club having gone 27 years without claiming the trophy.
Gary McCabe ended the season as the club’s top scorer with seven goals, as the Tallaght-based club struggled to find a prolific scorer. Goalkeeper Barry Murphy was named as the club’s Player of the Year.
St Patrick’s Athletic
In claiming the SSE Airtricity Premier Division title in 2013, St Pat’s finally shook off their tag of ‘nearly men’. However, Liam Buckley’s side failed to recapture their title-winning form in 2014, as arguably the best squad in the league vastly underperformed to seal only a 3rd place finish.
In light of their league triumph, the Inchicore club’s struggles in the cup competitions were largely overlooked last season. This campaign, in contrast, will be remembered for their exploits in both European and the domestic cups. Having gained a remarkable 1-1 draw in their Champions League second-round qualifier first-leg against Legia Warsaw, those at Richmond Park began to dream of a fairytale meeting with Scottish giants, Celtic. Unfortunately, those visions would remain imaginary, as the Polish champions thrashed St Pat’s in the second-leg, to end their chances of progressing.
Liam Buckley and his players did claim the Leinster Senior Cup after beating First Division side Longford Town in the final. With Europa League qualification secured through their final league position, St Pat’s head into the FAI Cup Final on November 2 with little to fear, as they go in search of more silverware.
Christy Fagan marked a memorable personal campaign with 20 league goals; Conan Byrne and Chris Forrester also reached double figures. Keith Fahey also enjoyed a fine campaign as he made his eagerly anticipated return to the League of Ireland.
The perennial target for the Students is to remain in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division and they still have a chance of extending their five-year stay. In 2013, UCD sealed their safety after finishing in 9th place and in doing so, avoided the uncertainty of a relegation play-off. However, Aaron Callaghan’s side were not so fortunate this time around, as they will have to wait until Halloween night before their Premier Division status is decided.
With the club’s target of survival the only real aspiration for management and players, cup competitions always prove to be a thankless task at the UCD Bowl. The Students exited all domestic cup competitions in the early rounds, as they lived up to their low expectations. Striker Cillian Morrison left the club in July to join Cork City, in what has become a familiar scenario for UCD as they continue to lose their best players on an all-too regular basis. The likes of Michael Leahy, Craig Walsh, Dinny Corcoran and David McMillan have all left the side in the past 12 months. However, management encourage the club’s best players to move on, in order to further their careers at more ambitious sides throughout the division.
Time will tell if UCD are to prepare for life in the Premier Division once more, or whether they will finally endure relegation to Irish football’s second-tier.