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There’s a new look to the second-tier this season with Treaty United from Limerick joining the LOI and replacing Shamrock Rovers II in the ten-team division.
Last season’s title race went right down to the wire with Drogheda United pipping Bray Wanderers at the post while it was Longford Town who advanced through the end-of-season play-offs to also secure a Premier Division spot for the forthcoming season (Premier Division outright betting).
This season’s First Division looks set to be even more competitive with some huge names dropping down to the second-tier namely Shelbourne who were defeated by Longford Town in the promotion/relegation play-off final while Cork City also suffered relegation last season and must now try to rebuild in the First Division.
There has been some big investment on the field at the likes of Shelbourne, Galway United, Bray Wanderers, Athlone and UCD and as a result, this season’s First Division could be one of the most exciting in history.
Having won the division in 2019 Shelbourne head the betting for the 2021 campaign with the likes of Yoyo Mahdy, Maxi Kouogun and Gerardo Bruna giving the Reds a formidable look for the year ahead.
However, the arrival of John Caulfield to the Galway dugout last season was a real gamechanger for the Tribesmen, and having come up just short in the play-offs many will expect the former Cork boss to go one step further and gain promotion with United this season.
Bray Wanderers fans are still dreaming of what could have been last year with the Seagulls in pole position for automatic promotion up until the final two games of the regular season before flopping in the play-offs. Some shrewd additions in the off-season should see Wanderers competition at the business end of the table once again this season.
UCD AFC lost out to Longford in a five-goal thriller in last season’s play-offs and despite losing Yoyo Mahdy to Shelbourne the Students have done some really good business in the transfer market and should be a really entertaining watch again this year.
Athlone Town have been stuck in something of a rut since their relegation in 2014 but at last, there are signs of green shoots at the Midlands outfit with their run to the FAI Cup semi-finals last season offering both a financial and confidence-boosting shot in the arm. Some impressive arrivals into the club during the off-season sees Athlone Town going into a new campaign with the biggest expectation on their shoulders for many-a-year……How they deal with that pressure may be the key to how high up the table they can compete in 2021.
Cork City‘s financial situation has been well documented for quite a while now and this season very much has the look of a rebuild project for a youthful Rebels side. In truth, success for City this season may be finishing above their County rivals Cobh Ramblers which is not certain.
Cabinteely enjoyed a terrific start to the 2020 season before the wheels well and truly came off the Cabo wagon and the South-Dublin club may find it difficult to compete against some of the better-resourced clubs in the division this season.
Wexford FC continues to give young players their chance to shine at National League level and while they should be commended for that it’s impossible to see the Ferrycarrig outfit being involved in the mix for the play-offs.
Finally, the newly elected Treaty United have been given very little time to prepare for their LOI bow with the Limerick-based club only receiving official confirmation of their place in the league last week. However, in Tommy Barrett they’ve got a manager who often performed miracles at the now-defunct Limerick FC and it will be interesting to see how he goes about building a club for the future in the Treaty County.