Normally when a season ends there is a moment of reflection for all those involved with a club as they assess the year that has been and make plans for the coming months. Not so in the SSE Airtricity League as given the nature of the short term contracts that clubs tend to offer there are a lot of players looking for new clubs nearly as soon as the last ball is kicked. Most clubs tend to offer 40 week contracts which means that a player could win the league one week and be signing on as unemployed a week later. Slowly this changing and the likes of Cork City, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers are now offering 52 week contracts and in some cases two and three year deals. Cork were active again as they signed defender Aaron Barry from Derry City and announced contract extensions for their goalkeeper Marc McNulty and striker Garry Buckley. Still no arrivals at Oriel Park yet but Dundalk did announce that goalkeeper Gabriel Sava and right back Sean Gannon had signed new contracts while defender Paddy Barrett has left the club and signed for USL side FC Cincinnati. Shamrock Rovers meanwhile extended the contracts of talented quartet Tomer Chencinski, Gary Shaw, Graham Burke and Brandon Miele.
Sligo Rovers were also active with winger Caolan McAleer signing from North West rivals Finn Harps and midfielder David Cawley returning to the Showgrounds after spells with first St. Patrick’s Athletic and then Galway United. The club also revealed like many others in the league that they will be launching a new home jersey in time for Christmas which will be on sale in the club shop. One of the many benefits from the switch to summer football for the league was that club merchandise and in particular season tickets became ideal Christmas presents. I know from personal experience from having manned the Rovers club shop for four years that it is a huge money spinner for the club as people come in for season tickets and usually end up buying some club merchandise as well. To give you an idea of the price of a season ticket one for Rovers for an adult is €220 which is great vale considering it cover the 18 home league games and represents a saving of nearly €3 per match. Year on and year in during my time with the club our season ticket sales increased which gave the club a financial cushion with which to start the season.
So whilst Premier Division clubs are busy laying the foundations for next season for First Division clubs it is a bit more uncertain. At the moment they know that whomever wins the league will be promoted automatically but it remains unsure if there will be play-offs or not which obviously will play into how much clubs are willing to put into their playing budget. Not an ideal situation. Anyways to finish one club who have left that division behind are Waterford FC and they made the biggest waves last week as they re-signed nine of last season’s squad and also swooped for two top Premier Division players. Highly rated French midfielder Bastien Hery signed from fellow Munster side Limerick FC and combative striker Ismahil Akinade joined from Bohemian FC which came as a huge surprise as he had been linked with a number of top sides in the league. A big statement from the newly promoted side.