The new 2018 SSE Airtricity League season is upon us and it begun at the weekend with President’s Cup which for the third-year running was contested between Cork City and Dundalk and in keeping with that trend it was Cork who once again triumphed beating their fierce rivals 4-2. It will be the manner of the defeat that will have Dundalk smarting, the game was in their home ground of Oriel Park and at half time they looked to be well in control as they led 2-0 thanks to a brace from Ronan Murray. Michael Duffy had also had a shot come back off the crossbar. The second half though proved just why people throw around the cliche about football that it is a game of two halves as goals from Karl Sheppard, Barry McNamee, Kieran Sadlier and Graham Cummins gave them the win. Before the game there was a minute’s silence in memory of Liam Miller, the former Celtic, Manchester United and Cork player who sadly passed away over the weekend. Miller was originally from Cork and his talent at underage level saw him snapped up by Celtic. He also played for Ireland and I saw him play for Cork against Sligo Rovers where he was always so elegant on the ball. He leaves behind a wife and three young children, may he Rest in Peace.
Cork will now begin the defence of their title with a trip to Richmond Park to face St. Patrick’s Athletic whilst Dundalk will start at home against Bray Wanderers. There is still time for clubs to add to their squads before the transfer window closes at the end of this month. Dundalk added a backup keeper to their ranks signing Ross Treacy who had been released by Swansea City in the Summer. Another side who made an addition were Sligo Rovers who brought in young winger Alistair Roy on loan from Scottish Premier League side Hearts until the Summer. The club also announced that their season opener which is at home against Limerick in the Showgrounds this coming Saturday evening will be their 3,000th competitive match. They are looking to try and get a crowd of 3,000 to mark the event. Limerick strengthened their squad bringing in defender Killian Cantwell. St. Pat’s have gone for firepower bringing in former Galway United striker Jake Keegan from former NASL side FC Edmonton subject to a work permit. So, it now promises to be a busy week with plenty of activity on and off the pitch as clubs get ready to kick off their respective campaigns. In terms of predictions I think Cork will still have enough about them to retain the Premier Division and I am going for Finn Harps to win the First Division, I think they have done good business in the off season. I am going for Dundalk to do the Cup double and win both the EA Sports Cup and the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup. For Sligo Rovers I think they squad has more depth and to me the club are in better shape and should finish mid-table and hopefully have a good run in one of the cups. Feel free to hold these against me come the end of the season!