There’s not long to go until the action in the League of Ireland gets underway in 2023, with the first round of fixtures scheduled for February 17. Shamrock Rovers won their third title in a row last season, and with Stephen Bradley at the help, they’re now aiming to make it a record-equalling four in a row. But are Rovers going to be in the mix once again? Or are other teams in with a chance in 2023?
Of course, when you have a team such as Shamrock Rovers, who have dominated a league for so long and remain a strong outfit, they’re always going to start as favourites when betting on Ireland’s Premier Division. And Rovers, under the guidance of Bradley, who has been integral to their success, are going to be the team to beat. There is no doubt about it. They won the league by thirteen points last term, so for many, it’s not a case of whether they will make it four titles in a row; it’s a question of how soon they’ll be crowned champions this season.
However, here is the kicker and something interesting to note, if Derry City’s form hadn’t nosedived at the wrong moment, they could have been the ones coming into this season as defending champions. The months of May and June saw a run of results made up heavily of draws and several defeats, with one of the latter being to Rovers. When he needed his team to hold their nerve, manager Ruaidhri Higgins found his players wanting in the league.
Derry did enjoy success by winning the FAI Cup, proving the team, under Higgins, have the quality and are winners. But it was perhaps that lack of experience that saw them falter last season. What this means is that you can be sure that Derry will come again in 2023, and if they have learned from their mistakes and can stay clear of such bad runs of form as seen last season, they could very well be title contenders and the team that will push Rovers all the way.
For those whole like a wildcard option, it could come in the form of Damien Duff’s Shelbourne side. The aim was to guide the club to safety last season, which he did, while also taking the Reds to the FAI Cup final, which is no mean feat. But another season of just staying in the top flight and consolidating won’t be on Duff’s agenda, and he may well go all out and try and mount a surprise title challenge.
But, in reality, this could well be the year Shamrock Rovers collect their fourth league crown in a row, equalling the record, before pushing on for further success. The only thing that could really derail this plan is if Bradley gets an offer to move elsewhere as manager based on how well he’s done with Rovers. He’s had offers before but has stayed put, which will be good news for Rovers fans ahead of the season beginning.