- Name: League of Ireland Premier Division / Príomhroinn Sraith na hÉireann
- Sponsored Name: SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
- Founded: 1985
- Number of Teams: 10
- Level on Pyramid: First
- UEFA League Coefficiency: 42nd – 7.000 [as of 21 June 2022]
Social Media Channels
- Website: https://www.sseairtricityleague.ie/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sseairtricityleague/
- Twitter: @SSEAirtricityLg
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sseairtricityleague/
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/faitv
Brief History and League Structure
The League of Ireland was initially founded in 1921, although the current Premier Division was first founded in 1985 following a restructure in Irish football to become the top-level division in the Irish football pyramid. The league initially operated in a winter league schedule but switched to a summer league schedule in 2003, and it currently maintains this structure by starting its season in either February or early March, and finishing in late October/early November.
The league currently has ten teams competing in the league, who play each other home and away twice to create a 36-game campaign having played every team four times in their respective schedules. The winner of the league qualifies for the following season’s first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, whilst the runners-up qualify for the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League. The third-placed side also qualifies for the Europa Conference League, but enters at the first qualifying round stage, alongside the FAI Cup winners (or fourth-placed side should the cup winners have already qualified for Europe via the league).
There is just one automatic relegation spot in the Premier Division, with the bottom-placed side being replaced by the champions of the League of Ireland First Division. Whereas the ninth-placed side must play a one-legged relegation/promotion play-off against the winners of the First Division play-offs, in which the teams finishing second to fifth position in the second tier league take part in.
Questions on the League of Ireland Premier Division
To get more information on the Republic of Ireland’s top-tier league, we asked questions to the excellent Irish Football Blog. They are dedicated to covering the League of Ireland and the Irish League, as well as providing scouting series, depth charts, and are also one-third of the new and superb Peilcast Podcast, which talks about Irish football every week. Should you wish to find out more about them, the links to their social media accounts can be found below:
- Website: https://theirishfootballblog.wordpress.com/
- Twitter: @BlogIrish
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/irish_football_blog/
- Peilcast Podcast Links: Spotify
Q. Firstly, what is the current state or performance of the league?
The league is on an upward trajectory, with more young players playing in the league than ever before. We’re also seeing an increase in international call-ups for the youth teams of young players playing in the league in every international window.
Q. Historically, which teams have been the most successful in the league, and which ones are the strongest currently?
Traditionally, Shamrock Rovers [19 Irish league titles won and are the current defending champions] and Dundalk [14 league titles won, the last coming in 2019] would be the two most successful clubs, but the league is known for its unpredictability and we regularly see a surprise package doing well.
Q. Which teams in the league are the most popular in the country?
Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians would have the biggest fan bases per se but other clubs like Finn Harps, Drogheda United, and Cobh Ramblers [who currently play in the First Division] would be the least disliked by opposition fans.
Q. What would you say is the league’s biggest game or rivalry of the season?
Rovers versus Bohs is huge, after that, the only real derby would be the ‘Louth Derby’ between Dundalk and Drogheda.
Q. Which game(s) would you consider to be the best of all time played in the league?
That’s a tough question as we regularly see cracking games being played in the league. However, coming from a Drogs bias, I would say it is the Louth Derby in 2012 when Drogheda were 2-0 down and came back to win 3-2. If we’re counting the FAI Cup, then it’s Sligo Rovers 3-2 Drogheda in the 2013 cup final.
Q. Switching to the playing side of things, who have been the best players to have played in the league in its history?
You’d have to look at the likes of Wes Hoolahan [attacking midfielder who started his career at Shelbourne, but made over 300 appearances for Norwich City, and earned 43 caps for the national team between 2008 and 2017], Chris Forrester [29-year-old midfielder who started his career at Bohemians, before playing for Peterborough United and Aberdeen, and is currently playing for St. Patrick’s Athletic in his second spell at the club], and Richie Towell [30-year-old defender currently at Shamrock Rovers, but has also played for Dundalk where he won two league titles, as well as spells at Celtic, Hibernians, Brighton & Hove Albion, Rotherham United, and Salford City] if you’re looking for recent memory and how they did in the league. If you’re talking overall, Roy Keane is easily the best LOI export [Keane started his career at Cobh Ramblers in 1989 before moving to Nottingham Forest the following year].
Q. Likewise, who are the league’s most successful manager(s)?
Stephen Kenny and Pat Fenlon.
Stephen Kenny is the current Republic of Ireland national team manager having been appointed to the post in 2020 when he replaced Mick McCarthy. During his very successful managerial career, he has managed a number of Irish clubs: Longford Town, Bohemians, Derry City, Shamrock Rovers, and Dundalk. Kenny has won the Premier Division on five occasions, which included four titles in five years with Dundalk between 2014 and 2018, as well as three FAI Cup wins with Derry City and Dundalk, and six League of Ireland Cups (including four with Derry City). He was named as Irish Manager of the Year on four occasions also.
Pat Fenlon started his managerial career at the club he finished his playing career, Shelbourne, as well as having managerial spells with Derry City, Bohemians, and Shamrock Rovers. He also had a stint with Scottish team Hibernian between 2011 and 2013. As Shelbourne manager, he achieved three league titles between 2003 and 2006, and added a further two consecutive league championships in 2008 and 2009 as Bohs manager. Fenlon has also won a FAI Cup, Setanta Sports Cup, and League of Ireland Cup during his spell with the Dublin-based club.
Q. In your opinion, who would you regard as the best player(s) currently playing in the league?
Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers) and Will Patching (Derry City).
26-year-old midfielder Jack Byrne is currently in his second spell with Shamrock Rovers having returned to the club in January 2022 after an unsuccessful spell at Cypriot club APOEL. He progressed through the Manchester City academy but was unable to make a senior appearance with the Citizens, making a number of loan moves whilst at Man City before permanently moving to Wigan Athletic in 2017. Further moves to Oldham Athletic and Kilmarnock followed before an initial move to Rovers in December 2018. During Byrne’s first spell at the club, he was an important part of Rovers’ 2019 FAI Cup victory and undefeated league championship in 2020, as well as winning the LOI Player of the Year in both 2019 and 2020. This excellent form earned him his international debut with the Republic of Ireland national team in 2019, and became the first domestic-based player to play in a competitive international for Ireland since 1985 when he played against Wales in the 2020-21 Nations League. He has won four caps for the national team, although none since 2020.
Will Patching is a 23-year-old English midfielder who currently plays for Derry City. He also started his professional career with Man City’s academy before moving to Notts County in 2018. Patching would later move to Dundalk in late 2019 where he made 23 appearances before moving to Derry in February 2021 initially on loan for the first half of the 2021 season. He had a successful loan period at the Brandywell Stadium scoring six goals in sixteen appearances before returning back to his parent club in the summer. It wasn’t until November 2021 when his move to the Candystripes was made permanent, and (at the time of writing) Patching has scored eight goals in twenty appearances during the 2022 season.
Q. Which players have the potential to become excellent or important players in the league in the near future?
Another tough question! There’s a lot of good young players in the league at the moment:
- Danny Mandriou – 23-year-old attacking forward who currently plays for Shamrock Rovers. Following his move from Bohemians in 2021, he scored fifteen goals during the 2021 championship-winning campaign, and currently has seven goals this season. He was called up for the senior national team in 2021 but has yet to earn a senior cap for the Republic of Ireland.
- Andy Lyons – 21-year-old defender who also plays for Rovers. Started his career at Bohs but moved to Rovers for the 2022 season. Currently has five goals in eighteen league appearances this season.
- Dean Williams – 22-year-old forward with Drogheda United who has scored five goals in fourteen appearances during the 2022 season.
- Will Patching
- Jamie McGonigle – 26-year-old striker currently at Derry City, and is the current top scorer in the Premier Division with ten goals in twenty league appearances.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the league in the future?
The dream is to see a club in the Champions League group stages and to see an increase in backing from the powers that be. If we could see a bigger amount of funding, the league could genuinely flourish.
A massive thank you very much to the superb Irish Football Blog for answering our questions on the League of Ireland Premier Division. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts and podcast in the links mentioned previously.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.