Dundalk is the second Irish League club to reach the group stage of the European competition. Dundalk was set for another great European night, but the same problem still haunts the League of Ireland nearly six decades after the first. In 2016, the Irish Champions League raised over €6.5 million for their European exploits alone. It was the same with Dundalk in 2015, head and shoulders above all their rivals and ultimately no league winners.
The division was formed as the League of Ireland Premier Division in 1985 following the decision to split the League of Ireland into two divisions, leading to the creation of the League of Ireland First Division. In 2009, the FAI rejected proposals from clubs to remove the First Division and restore the League of Ireland to its original structure. Due to financial irregularities, Cork City and Derry City were relegated from the Premier League to the First Division. In May 2013, after only two seasons in the League of Ireland, Shelbourne was promoted to the First Division for the 2014 season.
The remaining divisions are divided into national, provincial and district levels, with the Premier Division and the second-tier Division One being the two national leagues. The first members of the Premier Division included the traditional top four clubs in the League of Ireland: Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne, Bohemians and Dundalk, and eight other clubs. The most notable is Damien Duff, a former Premier League winner and Irish international who looks after newly promoted Shelbourne.
Several attractive moves have been made so far, including the return of Jack Byrnes to Shamrock Rovers and the movement of Michael Duffy’s home to Derry City from Dundalk. The off-season has also been engaging on the managerial front, with Dundalk, St. Patrick’s Athletic, Shelbourne, Longford Town, Waterford and Athlone changing managers. In the past year, disruptions caused by international calls to Ireland at all levels and to other international countries have sparked debate about reflecting best practices.
In Ian Morris’s first year as a professional manager, Morris led Shelbourne to a nine-point victory in the Irish League and promotion to the First Division. As head coach, Pat Finlon led Shelburne to a second-place finish in the league and UEFA Cup qualifiers in his first season. Ireland’s top flight is an exciting and competitive division despite being small compared to the English Premier League. Another one in the Other category is 50 Years of the Cork Athletic Union Football League by acclaimed author Plunkett Carter, which I think is worth the price of a PS1.