After a thrilling 2023 League of Ireland season which saw attendance records smashed, Shamrock Rovers securing a historic fourth league title in a row, and unrivaled drama that only the #GreatestLeagueInTheWorld can offer, Bar One Racing is again the first bookmaker to offer outright betting ahead of the 2024 campaign.
Despite becoming only the second team to claim four league crowns in succession, many felt Shamrock Rovers were there to be shot at last season. Certainly, a premature European exit and an FAI Cup first-round exit were hugely disappointing for the Hoops last term but despite getting off to the most sluggish of starts, neither Derry City or St.Pat’s could capatilise with Stephen Bradley’s side ultimately cruising to the title yet again.
As a result, it’s Shamrock Rovers who are once again the team everyone else has to catch next season with the champions EVS to retain their title.
Derry City (2/1) have invested heavily in recent seasons in a bid to usurp the long-standing champions and that investment shows no signs of slowing down with Daniel Kelly arriving at the Brandywell from Dundalk during the off-season.
Despite such riches on Foyleside, for me, it’s St.Patrick’s Athletic (5/2) who may prove to be Shamrock Rovers biggest threat next year. The FAI Cup winners have a plethora of incredibly talented young players bursting through at present while manager Jon Daly looks set to be backed in the transfer market.
Damien Duff’s arrival into the LOI in 2022 was always going to generate headlines and interest but I don’t think anyone expected the Irish legend to have the kind of impact he has had at Shelbourne (8/1). An FAI Cup final appearance in his first season was built on substantially last term as the Reds qualified for Europe for the first time in almost two decades.
That success was built largely off the rock-solid defensive organisation put in place by Duff as Shels conceded just 27 goals in 36 league matches. With that steely defensive base to work off, Duff added Harry Wilson and Will Jarvis on loan from Hull, and between them and the individual brilliance of Jack Moylan, Shels found a way to finish in the top four despite being the lowest-scoring side in the top-six.
With Moylan moving onto Lincoln City and the Hull lads unlikely to return, Duff has a big job on his hands if he is to again build on last season’s progress but the Shels boss has been shrewd in the transfer market so far by bringing in what I would describe as good solid LOI operators. With that defensive structure at Shels, it wouldn’t take much for them to challenge next season.
Outside of those four clubs, it would take a miracle for anyone else to challenge for top honours next season. Declan Devine will need a quick start to 2024 with the Bohemians (25/1) manager under immense fan pressure following the Gypsies tame finish to the league season and their disappointing performance in the FAI Cup final defeat to St.Pat’s.
With Jonathan Afolabi unlikely to be at Bohs following his goalscoring exploits, Devine may find himself having to do somewhat of a rebuild having only put some sort of his own stamp on proceedings at Dalymount Park last year.
Dundalk (33/1) have just undergone yet another off-field takeover, the future of club legend Pat Hoban remains uncertain and they now lack the sort of financial muscle they enjoyed in the past having missed out on Europe for next season.
Sligo Rovers (66/1) manager John Russell looks set to try and hit a restart button at the Showgrounds after a disastrous season. The Bit O’Red have released a large batch of players from last season and are reportedly eyeing some more experienced domestically-based players for next term having tried and failed with overseas recruits in recent years.
Drogheda United (40/1) also have new owners and should have a competitive budget to work with as a result but they will still be part-time and look set to lose star defender Conor Keely. It will never be easy for them while they remain part-time but they’ll be ok with one of the best management teams in the league overseeing things there.
The addition of Galway United (66/1) and Waterford FC (80/1) from the First Division means the top flight has a far stronger look to it next year but despite Galway’s incredible title-winning campaign and run to the last four of the FAI Cup in 2023, they will need to add plenty of quality if they are to compete, it was a very poor division they came out of last season.
Similar comments naturally apply to Waterford who came up via the play-offs. Cork City’s relegation just 12 months on from winning the second-tier is a god reminder of just how difficult it is to reestablish yourself at this level.
2024 LOI PREMIER DIVISION OUTRIGHTS: Shamrock Rovers EVS, Derry City 2/1, St.Pat’s 5/2, Shelbourne 8/1, Bohemians 25/1, Dundalk 33/1, Drogheda United 40/1, Sligo Rovers 66/1, Galway United 66/1, Waterford FC 80/1 – BET HERE.