Inside League of Ireland: Shamrock Rovers are real title contenders

Trevor Croly's team can go all the way and win the league this season after a strong start to their campaign, while Cork City's youth continues to dominate

Three games into the 2014 SSE Airtricity Premier Division season, Shamrock Rovers sit at the top of the table, taking their place at the summit after a 3-1 away win in the Dublin derby against bitter rivals Bohemians. Although the season is still in its infancy, the Hoops are showing the hallmarks of a side that will finish the campaign at the summit.

In an entertaining tie at Dalymount Park, Kieran 'Marty' Waters sealed the victory after coming off the bench. The new signing made an instant impact, but similar plaudits were awarded to Simon Madden who was a constant threat out wide, and is marking himself out as the best full-back in the country.

Both are new arrivals at Tallaght Stadium, while Trevor Croly has signed cleverly in the off-season, bringing in cover for all areas of the pitch, while the returning Ciaran Kilduff has already shown his value with three league goals this season.

The Setanta Sports Cup holders made many changes for Monday's semi final first leg tie with Dundalk, but only went down to two penalties from the impressive Richie Towell.

Last season the Hoops won the cross-border competition as well as the EA Sports Cup, and it could be a blessing in disguise for Croly were his team to exit either of these early on - allowing his players to focus on just one prize. At this early stage, it looks like the League of Ireland trophy will make a long-awaited return to Tallaght Stadium.


For the third year in a row, Cork City have won the SSE Airtricity U19 League Elite Division, but saw their title defence go down to the wire as they had to come from behind to defeat Drogheda United and lift the trophy.

Rob Lehane is the latest Cork City Under-19 player to make the step up to the SSE Airtricity League, with John Caulfield impressed by the young striker's prowess in front of goal. There are many exciting prospects set to come through at Turner's Cross, with Greg Harte following in Lehane's footsteps by scoring 21 goals for the Leesiders this season.

The club have also unveiled a new patronage scheme with UCC which will provide the best young local football talent with an academic education. Cork City CEO Tim Murphy believes the programme will be hugely beneficial for the club's future. "The Patrons Scheme will allow us provide such opportunities to our underage players in addition to the best coaching possible and a clear pathway to senior football," Murphy said when the scheme was announced.

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane was present at the launch, and is disappointed he never had the same opportunity when beginning his playing career. "Getting an education and playing football is allowed," Keane said. "It's one of my regrets."

City U19 captain Darren Murphy is another tipped to make the step up from underage football, and could well make the same impact as his namesake has in the senior team. With Caulfield's history of managing amateur sides as well as the UCC squad, it would not be a surprise if chances come for these prodigious players sooner rather than later.


Much has been already said about the state of the facilities at the Brandywell due to the fact that Derry City share their pitch with numerous local clubs, and the latest announcement from Limerick has indicated that the Shannonsiders show no signs of suffering the same fate.

Limerick have acquired the Kirby O’Sullivan Sports, Social and Business Park, which will house the club's offices as well as grass and artificial pitches, which will be utilised by the entire community. The Superblues' ground-share with Munster rugby club at Thomond Park has been a positive step for both parties, while this new acquisition will also help create a positive relationship with the GAA, who will also use the facilities.

Club Chairman Pat O'Sullivan outlined the importance of community in the press release for the deal, stating that the club "want to be central in the everyday life of Limerick people, sharing their love of sport, their community pride and their values." This can only be good for football in the region, and hopefully get more fans coming through the turnstiles.