You are guaranteed two things when Spring comes to Ireland, a grand stretch in the evening and the return of League of Ireland football. With the players well back in preseason and squads starting to come together now is the ideal time to break down the premier division team by team and preview the long season ahead all bias aside.

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Bohemians

Bohs enter this seasons campaign with a bulging squad of 27 players, yet the quality defiantly outweighs the quality. Keeping hold of lads like Danny Mandroiu and James Talbot will be a huge boost for Keith Long after the pairs sensational seasons last year but some of their young signings have been inspired.

They have lost an outgoing Darragh Leahy to the back line but should be well covered back there with the likes of incoming Ciaran Kelly and returning Dan Casey looking to hold down the fort while Paddy Kirk and Andy Lyons bomb forward from the back.

The Gypsies have also added plenty of fire power going forward with Glen McAuley hoping to add some goals and strike up a possible partnership with Dinny Corcoran.

Key Player – Danny Mandroiu

Best Signing – Dan Casey

Predicted Finish – 4th

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Cork City

Last season proved to be a difficult one for the Munster men and they may just have an even more difficult one ahead of them.

Not much seemed to improve at the back end of last season under new manager Neale Fenn and the departure of some key players may see Cork City in a bit of a dog fight this season. Conor McCormack, Karl Sheppard and Kevin O’Connor just to name a few have moved on to pastures green.

New additions Cian Coleman and Cory Galvin have limited experience in the league but will do a job to get the fans excited and keeping hold of the likes of Gearoid Morrissey and Daire O’Connor might give them the bit of quality needed to drag them through bad patches.

Key Player – Daire O’Connor  

Best Signing – Cory Galvin

Predicted Finish – 9th

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Derry City

Derry Have shown some serious ambition with the quality of signings that have came into the club over the off season. The budget has clearly been boosted to try and break into the top two. They’ve lost some big players from the previous season in David Parkhouse, Greg Sloggett and Junior Uzokwe Ogedi.

However, the big difference compared to others is the Candystripes have replaced these losses with equality impressive incoming signings with Walter Figueira, Conor McCormack and Conor Clifford all making the move up North.

Keeping the Brandywell Stadium a fortress like they did last season will be key with them only losing two home league games last season making the long trip up to Derry most teams make difficult.

Key Player – Walter Figueria

Best Signing – Conor Clifford

Predicted Finish – 3rd

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Dundalk

What is left to say about the league champions that already hasn’t been said?

Currently the most dominate team in Irish football will be looking to keep hold of their strangle hold on the league this season and they probably should. The best squad in the league from top to bottom will be really looking to push themselves in Europe this year as their next big challenge.

Domestically they are favourites to pick up the league title again and with the talent on and off the field it will be hard to bet against more Dundalk dominance in 2020. They only seen two key players depart this winter with Jamie McGrath and Robbie Benson departing the club but with all that European money coming in adding to an already impressive squad was never going to be an issue with former Athletico Madrid youngest Stefan Colovic coming on board. At least their new home jersey is brutal a nice consolation for the rest of us.

Key Player – Pat Hoban

Best Signing – Greg Sloggett

Predicted Finish – 1st

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Finn Harps

Gritty and determent are words often used to describe the team from Donegal. They will need much more then grit and determination to keep their status as a Premier Division team. Ollie Horgan has worked miracles with Finn Harps but going into this season with such a striped back squad it may be one miracle to many. Barry McNamee is one of the biggest signings from any club during the off season and a fantastic talent but a one man show may not be enough to save Harps.

Dave Webster is also a good addition but is not enough to replace Keith Cowen and Daniel O’Reilly who departed the Harps back four.

Key Player – Dave Webster

Best Signing – Barry McNamee

Predicted Finish – 10th

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Shamrock Rovers

The second runner in what looks to be a two horse race for the league title this season looking to add to their FAI cup success last year.

Retaining the services of Jack Byrne was more important than any signing as he was vital to all that was good in a very impressive Rovers squad last season and deserving winner of the PFAI Player of the Year award for 2019. The signings of Rhys Marshall and Liam Scales add to an already stacked squad of players that would have most managers in the league licking their lips. Getting all these big personalities at such an ambitious club working as a unit is needed to bring the league title back to Tallaght since 2011.

Key Player – Jack Byrne

Best Signing – Rhys Marshall

Predicted Finish – 2nd

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Shelbourne

Once a giant of Irish football Shels now once again find themselves back in the Premier Division looking to make themselves a regular feature of the league which they have struggled to do in recent years. This time they have made some serious headway by the quality of player they have managed to bring into the club. Karl Sheppard will be looking to link up with Ciaran Kilduff who found himself in flying form last season with 12 goals. Both men have good records in the Premier Division and could be a vital partnership. Gary Deegan is also a big signing from Cambridge United in England could be the calming influence for the young guns in the squad.

With this mix of experience and youth with the likes of prospect Jaze Kabia and a manager and coaching staff with plenty of former Premier Division players Shelbourne stay in the division probably won’t be a flash in the pan this time round.

Key Player – Karl Sheppard

Best Signing – Gary Deegan

Predicted Finish – 6th

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Sligo Rovers

I’d be worried if I was a Sligo fan coming into the 2020 season. Losing their leading goal scorer Romeo Parkes and not replacing him yet is worrying especially when most teams around you have strengthened their squads. Ronan Coughlan looks set to take over as the leading man up front but does his best work out on the wings and Ronan Murray just simply hasn’t got going for the Bit O Red. While John Mahon looks set for a lengthy spell on the side lines after fracturing his leg in preseason.

Players like Ed McGinty and Lewis Banks who impressed last season will be looked upon if Sligo are forced to sit back in games like they did in much of their games last season. The signing of Garry Buckley might just be the creative spark that they need if he can find his old form to keep his new teams head above water out West.

Key Player – Ed McGinty

Best Signing – Garry Buckley

Predicted Finish – 8th

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St. Patrick’s Athletic

A new season and a new fresh start under a new manager for the Saints with Stephen O’Donnell putting his stamp on the club over the winter break. Gutting a majority of last years squad O’Donnell looks to inject a new attitude and philosophy into the squad. As a player O’Donnell enjoyed a passing game and seems to be looking to implement that coming into his first full season with Pats.

Signing Robbie Benson, Dan Ward and Billy King is defiantly a step in the right direction. St, Pats have also kept the services of Darragh Markey who the manager seems keen on being the play maker to his technical style of play.

Chris Forrester looked to get back to showing signs of his old form under O’Donnell at the tail end of last season something that the Saints could need to make a push into a European place.

Key Player – Darragh Markey

Best Signing – Robbie Benson

Predicted Finish – 5th

Waterford

Panic stations must have been setting in for plenty of Waterford fans as a mass exodus of players left the club Shane Duggan, Rory Feely, Georgie Poyton, Zack Elbouzedi and previously mentioned Walter Figueroa and Cory Galvin all left the club with a bare bones squad. It took the Blues a while to get going on replacing these men but thankfully for the Munster men have got in some well need reinforcements for the 2020 season.

Michael O’Connor returns to the club along with the arrival of Graham Cummins will be looking to prove the goals in what could be a fruitful partnership if the chemistry is right. Cork City duo Kevin O’Connor and Tadgh Ryan also make the short trip to their Muster rivals.

Some gaps still need to be plugged especially at the back with the recent retirement of centre back Kenny Browne but what seemed to be a choppy season ahead seems that bit more smooth sailing with the late bit of business by manager Alan Reynolds.

Key Player – Will Fitzgerald

Best Signing – Michael O’Connor

Predicted Finish – 7th

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