AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @Kieran_B_Sport.
At times last season, Drogheda United were being talked about as potential European qualification challengers following a dream start to life back in the Premier Division. It was always unlikely the 2020 First Division winners would be able to maintain such levels, even if they had recruited well with wise old pros Gary Deegan and Dane Massey helping to bring out the best in the Drogs hot young talents but a seventh-place finish was more than a successful season for the Louth men in the end.
As the admiration for Drogheda United’s success story grew, so did the interest in their top young talents and that interest came from both clubs domestically and further afield. Rarely do we see such a talent drain at one club in the same off-season like the losses Drogheda have suffered in recent months with Dan O’Reilly (Hamilton), Jimmy Brown (Blackburn) and Killian Phillips (Crystal Palace) all earning big moves across the water while Conor Kane (Shelbourne) and Mark Doyle (St.Patrick’s Athletic) have all moved elsewhere within the League of Ireland to full-time set-ups.
The man who oversaw the rise of such talent, Tim Clancy has been poached by St.Patrick’s Athletic with his trusty assistant Kevin Doherty given the chance to sit back into the main hot-seat having managed Shelbourne previously before going back into the role of a number two. Doherty has added former Longford Town manager Daire Doyle to the coaching ticket in an interesting move and it’s a decision that appears to have paid early dividends with Doyle using his connections to attract the likes of Dylan Grimes, Dean Williams, and Darragh Nuggent to the club (Doyle managed all three at Longford last season).
However, it’s difficult to look past the loss of the players mentioned earlier, especially full-backs Kane and Brown who were a huge part of how Tim Clancy’s team played. Simply put, such players are irreplaceable at this level and as a result, Drogheda United may be in for a much tougher time of things this term.
BTS PREDICTION: 8TH
STAR PERFORMER: Chris Lyon’s (Drogs have done well to hold him and he’ll need to score goals to keep them up).
ONE TO WATCH: Dean Williams
For more build-up to the 2022 League of Ireland season, tune in to Between the Stripes LOI podcast’s 2022 Pre-Season Special here.