By Philip O’Rourke (@effect_phil)
There is no better feeling than the first game of the season for a football fan. Optimism is in the air for every fan of every club. Everybody is on the same playing field. Nobody knows what to expect.
Will their club be part of a title challenge, maybe even challenge for one of those lucrative European spots, or will it be a long hard season struggling to score goals, to entertain, to survive?
In every league there must be a success story but also a failure. So, who will it be this season? Will Dundalk regain their crown, or will Cork City come back fighting? Will Shamrock Rovers, the sleeping giants of Irish football mount a realistic challenge or will St. Pats, Derry City or Bohemians spring a surprise and gate crash the party? UCD are back in the big time but will their philosophy of youth be enough, and will Waterford FC have another decent season in the top flight or will second season syndrome hit.
With the usual rivalries of Shamrock Rovers/Bohemians and Finn Harps/Derry City renewing acquittances again this season there is a lot too look forward to in this, the 35th League of Ireland season.
Only time will tell who will become triumphant and who will be heading down to the First Division, which should not be forgotten either with the likes of Shelbourne and Drogheda looking to get back into the big time.
Not without it’s rivalries either, the first division plays host to the Midlands derby between Athlone Town and Longford Town and the smaller but ever-growing Wicklow derby between Bray Wanderers and Cabinteely, with the first of those clubs hoping to put last seasons woes behind them and look to rebuild on what made them a stalwart Premier League club in years gone past.
It won’t be easy though with big clubs like Galway United and Limerick FC looking to climb out of Ireland’s second tier. Wexford FC and Cobh Ramblers are by no means push overs either with each club looking to cause an upset or two this season, adding both colour and youth to the equation.
New club heroes will be born, and villains will be created (mainly the men in black and yellow). Those summer nights are back were we feel a connection to those who are playing the sport we love. There are no prima donna’s here, only players who know if they don’t put 100% in then they will know about it from those diehard fans who follow their club around the country, even on those cold Tuesday nights in the Autumn.
Scarves will be swung, songs will be sung, and everything will be on hold during those 90 mins. Both the ten team leagues are sure to share some thrills, spills, cheers and tears and I am proud to follow it all and to support #TheGreatestLeagueinTheWorld
Photo: SSE Airtricity League