League of Ireland preview: Dundalk will be tough to contain again

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Following one of the most impressive ever performances from a League of Ireland team, Dundalk bid for their fourth successive league title in 2017.

However, it’s the bottom of the table scrap that’ll make this the most exciting season for some time.

With the Premier Division league structure changing to a 10-team division next year, three teams will be relegated from the top-flight.

And of course that means half the league could be battling to avoid the drop in the final weeks of the season.

With everything taken into account, we’ve taken a look at the squads and the prices to find the best value for this year’s League of Ireland Premier Division.

Champions: Dundalk (8/11 to win the league)

The big question is: have Dundalk improved or at least sufficiently replaced their two star players Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle who departed for Preston at the end of last season?

They have made a like for like replacement for Boyle in the form of the very solid Sean Hoare and replaced Horgan, the league’s best player in 2016, with an array of attacking options.

With all that said, Patrick McEleney, who played second fiddle to Horgan last year, could be this year’s star man.

The 16/1 Top Goalscorer price looks very appealing with Kenny touting him to move to a number 10 role.

Outside of the individual talent, Dundalk’s outstanding fitness was vital to last year’s success.

Meanwhile, their massively improved budget and improved facilities should see them successfully defend their title.

Runner Up: Cork City (9/4 to win the league)

Cork City have laid down a marker in recent years, pushing Dundalk all the way in the league. You certainly couldn’t rule them out of the reckoning after beating Dundalk 3-0 in the season opener, The President’s Cup.

Unlike Dundalk, The Rebels have held on to their prized assets including last season’s top scorer Seán Maguire, who at 9/2 looks likely to pick up the Top Goalscorer award.

Ultimately though, it’s tough to see them catching Dundalk this season of all seasons, with the champions’ massive budget from European success likely to be a key factor.

Relegation:  Finn Harps (1/5 to be relegated), Drogheda (1/2), Galway (11/8)

The impending league restructure is the main talking point in the league at the moment.

And as a result, last year’s strugglers Finn Harps look doomed and are almost a certainty for relegation.

Even their own manager, Ollie Horgan, admitted: “If we’re in the [relegation] fight by the end of the year it will be a success”.

Elsewhere, the betting shows Bohemians and newly promoted Drogheda are likely join them. Of the two, Bohemians have better strengthened and look like they can avoid the drop again.

The shortage of nailed on candidates mean that Drogheda look next in line. However, Galway slumped over the line last year with a string of abysmal results and at odds-against they shouldn’t be overlooked in this market.

Click here for the latest League of Ireland odds.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Declan Marron

Declan lent his voice to various radio projects before finding a home with Ladbrokes where his ramblings are now encouraged. Declan is the bookies' Irish Football reporter and can be spotted and heard giving updates on Irish international and club matches. He is also a long-suffering Liverpool supporter and defied his Dublin upbringing to support Limerick FC.