LOI First Division Previews (MD1)

Between the Stripes LOI podcast host and LOI TV commentator Kieran Burke looks ahead to the new LOI First Division season.

The League of Ireland First Division returns this weekend with great excitement and intrigue surrounding the 2023 campaign as Kerry FC make their LOI bow while Waterford FC are the title favourites. LOI TV commentator and host of Between the Stripes LOI podcast, Kieran Burke previews the opening round matches for Bar One Racing.

Kerry FC v Cobh Ramblers (Fri, 7.45, LOITV) 

Kerry FC begin their maiden LOI campaign in front of a sold out Mounthawk Park for what is one of the leagues newest rivalries as Cork side Cobh Ramblers make the trip to Tralee on Friday night.

Ramblers finished bottom of the First Division last season but have invested in some established players at this level in order to try and improve and mix it with some of the bigger clubs in the division. Jack Doherty could be one of the signings of the season with the attacking midfielder a source of creativity and goals. Doherty won’t have to do it alone either as Wilson Waweru has joined on loan from Galway and has already found his flow in front of goal during pre-season.

Kerry enter the league on an amateur basis and have put together a largely locally based squad. Cobh have done similar in the past and really struggled to compete as a result so this could be a difficult baptism of fire for Kerry.

PREDICTION: Kerry FC 0-2 Cobh Ramblers (7/1 correct score)

Wexford FC v Waterford FC (Fri, 7.45, LOITV) 

Another local derby as South-East rivals Wexford and Waterford clash in a huge important opening game. Waterford were favourites to win the league last season but a slow start saw Ian Morris booted out and Danny Searle brought in and while the Englishman brought the Blues to the play-off final, they ultimately came up short. With a full pre-season now under his belt and a host of players brought in from the UK, Searle won’t be allowed any time to settle into the new season, a slow start and he’ll be moved on.

As for Wexford, James Keddy has been majorly backed ahead of his first season in management with the ex-Longford Town assistant raiding his former club during the off-season. In a recent friendly against Dundalk, 6 of the Wexford starting XI played for De Town last season, a Town team who reached the play-offs so that will also be the goal for Wexford who just came up short last season.

Jordan Adeyemo scored 8 goals in 13 appearances for Longford last season and is up there as one of the best finishers in the division. Meanwhile, Waterford have brought in Athlone Town star Thomas Oluwa, St.Pat’s veteran Ronan Coughlan, and the highly rated Northern Irish youngster Chris Conn-Clarke.

As a result, there will be lots of firepower on display in this season opener, we should be in for a goalfest!


Treaty United v Bray Wanderers (Fri, 7.45, LOITV) 

Treaty United have suffered a hammer blow just days out from the new season with Ryan Connolly deciding a move to Limerick is now not possible due to work commitments. Having played in Europe with Shamrock Rovers and more recently in the Premier Division with Finn Harps, Connolly was a marquee signing for Treaty and would have added greatly to their midfield. Not only that but Tommy Barrett’s side have lost some key players from last season so if they can reach the play-offs for a third consecutive season it will be an incredible achievement.

Bray Wanderers endured an incredibly difficult 2022 season on and off the pitch but on the field at least, the club appears to be in a much better place going into the new season with new Head Coach Ian Ryan adding some real quality at the Carlise Grounds. Ryan, who cut out a good reputation during his time at Wexford, has brought some of his old charges with him while he has been able to convince the likes of Chris Lyons, Dave Webster, and Dane Massey to step down from the Premier Division.

Despite their losses, Treaty United are always a well organised side who are generally hard to beat at home (P16, W7, D4, L5 last season) so I wouldn’t expect any easy outing for Bray here but the Market Fields playing surface is reportedly in great condition and that will suit Ian Ryan who likes his teams to play good football.

PREDICTION: Bray Wanderers (9/4)

Finn Harps v Galway United (Fri, 8.00, LOITV)

Ollie Horgan returns to Finn Park as Galway United’s assistant manager in a game that has multiple other intriguing subplots. New Harps manager Dave Rogers has had a major clearout of Horgan’s players from last season with Rogers turning to youth. As for Galway, John Caulfield can not afford a slow start this season with the fans on his back after yet more play-off failure last year.

It’s difficult to know what to expect from Harps with their new manager promising much more exciting football than we saw during the Ollie Horgan era but Ollie will be the first to tell you it’s a results game.

John Caulfield is a manager who certainly favours results over style and he has again been backed by the clubs owners with TEN new arrivals during the transfer window. However, it’s not as if this is a new phenomenon, Galway have been investing heavily for a number of seasons now yet they always appear to come up short and I think they will again this season.

As for Harps, it’s very much wait and see with them this season so this is a game I’ll be steering clear of with a prediction this weekend.

Longford Town v Athlone Town (Sat, 7.30, LOITV)

It’s the game known as “El Clasico” as Midland foes Longford and Athlone clash at Bishopsgate on Saturday night. The home side are almost unrecognisable from last term with the majority of their squad moving on after manager Gary Cronin and his assistant James Keddy took up better jobs elsewhere while Athlone Town have gone worldwide with their shopping over Christmas.

Athlone have brought in several foreign players with many of them having very little notable experience to show on their CV. It’s very hard to know where Athlone have got their info on these players and we’ve seen the Westmeath side go down this kind of road in the past with nothing positive to show from it.

New Longford manager Stephen Henderson has turned to youth to fill out his squad and he may have unearthed a few diamonds in the rough. Meanwhile, local lad Aodh Dervin has made a surprising loan move back to the club despite staring in the FAI Cup final for Shelbourne just a few months ago.

That signing will give Longford a positive shot in the arm ahead of this local derby and given their brilliant record in this fixture, I’d have the favour the home side.

PREDICTION: Longford Town (11/20)




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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article