Ah the off season, a time of great tetchiness and rumour in the SSE Airtricity League and it has got off to a great start with Cork City and Dundalk extending their rivalry from on the pitch of off it. It began in the aftermath of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup Final when Dundalk put a statement on their website thanking their fans for attending the game and saying that the better team didn’t win which naturally got up the nose of Cork supporters. Then Cork announced that Karl Sheppard was staying with the club and had signed a two year deal. Sheppard had been widely linked with a moved to Dundalk and this was confirmed by their manager Stephen Kenny who said that the player had approached them about signing as he was looking to move back to Dublin. He added as well that Sheppard had signed a pre-contract with them but that was now in the hands of club officials. It won’t affect Sheppard signing with Cork but there is a precedent whereby he might have to pay compensation to Dundalk should they wish to pursue it. Added to this was a row between Kenny and Cork manager John Caulfield about a phone call that was made after last year’s Cup Final which Cork also won. Kenny said that one of the Cork players rang Dundalk’s Stephen O’Donnell to taunt him while Caulfield maintains it was a supporter with said supporter having verified this on twitter. This rivalry has become deep and there is still a long way to go until a ball is kicked in anger in February!

Cork have been the most active side in the transfer market so as along with the contract extension for Sheppard they announced a new two year deal for their experienced centre half Alan Bennett. They signed right back Tobi Adebayo-Rowling from Sligo Rovers and had to pay Rovers a compensation fee of €18,000, another right back Colm Horgan joined from Galway United, midfielder Barry McNamee joined from Derry City and striker Josh O’Hanlon arrived from St. Patrick’s Athletic. They did lose Greg Bolger as he signed for Shamrock Rovers. Horgan is the younger brother of Preston’s Daryl Horgan who also previously played for Cork. Dundalk have been far quieter with a number of their side being linked with moves to clubs in England. No doubt things will liven up on the signings front in the next few weeks in Oriel Park. My Sligo Rovers announced during the week that Greg Moorhouse and Seamus Sharkey have both signed deals to stay in the Showgrounds next season. Moorhouse was a bit of a surprise as he had been expected to sign for Coventry as he had been due to sign for them before joining Rovers. Waterford have resigned the majority of their promotion winning squad whilst Limerick have also been busy. It’s a strange thing in football in Ireland that the off season can be just as busy if not busier than the regular season and it certainly tends to generate more debate, if half the people that talked about the league actually went to the games then clubs would be a lot more vibrant and better off financially!