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League Of Ireland 2013 – The Highs And Lows

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The League of Ireland season is rarely boring and un-entertaining, 2013 was no different. We experienced many highs and lows with St.Patrick’s Athletic and Athlone Town among the most memorable stories as they won their respective leagues.

As ever there was no shortage of controversy as Waterford United endured a flirtation with the financial abyss as former manager Stephen Henderson sought to have them wound up in court before both parties ultimately made an agreement. The club also faced some lows on the pitch as they narrowly missed out on a play-off position in the First Division.

Highs in football is what make us love the game so much, without them, we wouldn’t survive. The lows, sadly, come with it.

It was a good season for Mick Cooke (now of Athlone Town) and his Drogheda United side as they squared off against Malmo FF in the UEFA Europa League, with Malmo having earned a Champions League spot for next season since the fixture.

Drogheda played out a well deserved 0-0 draw, which will rank among their highlights of the season. The result sparked annoyance among those supporting Malmo, forcing the Malmo manager to intervene and enter himself into the away end of Tallaght Stadium to calm down the travelling fans.

Malmo fans were promised that a win would be achieved in the second leg and ultimately they progressed. Drogheda didn’t go down without a fight in Sweden and gained valuable European experience that would benefit them greatly.

No team endured such a dramatic season as that of Waterford United. A High Court case was heard on June 19th, as former boss Henderson hung a winding up order over the club as he demanded money he was rightfully owed.

There was no short of drama on the day, Blues’ fans had their hearts in their mouths as the court case was pushed back by a matter of hours to see if both parties could reach an amicable agreement. Henderson granted the club a reprieve as fans rallied and stumped up the necessary funds to help broker a deal.

As club representatives and fans left the court, a new hope dawned as a return to the Premier Division wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

However, fast forward to a cold winter night in Cobh and Waterford United were failing to achieve their promotion dream. Longford Town took the final play-off spot as Roddy Collins led Athlone to the league title. Longford would go on to lose the playoff to Bray Wanderers, who remained in the top flight as Collins left Athlone to take up the managerial reins at Derry City.

A high moment of 2013 of the League of Ireland was definitely St.Patrick’s Athletic winning the league title for the first time since 1999, under the tutelage of Liam Buckley, the very man who brought the coveted trophy to Inchicore little over a decade earlier.

Players like Killian Brennan, Greg Bolger and Conor Kenna stood out for the Saints, who were more than worthy winners of the league title. Club captain Kenna has since joined Shamrock Rovers.

With Saints’ fans on cloud nine it appeared things couldn’t get any better. Then came the big pre-Christmas announcement from the club that they had re-signed Ireland international Keith Fahey for the 2014 season. The marquee signing of the former Birmingham City star is a huge statement of intent from the champions, who welcome the Dubliner back for his third stint at the club.

There were plenty more highs for some of the players on an individual level. Brennan made the switch from Shamrock Rovers to Pats and became an instant hit in Inchicore. His performances were inspiring, a far cry from his ill fated season at Rovers.

Shamrock Rovers endured a horrific league campaign but managed to gain some silverware on the cup front, winning the Setanta Cup, the EA Sports Cup and the Leinster Senior Cup . Much hope was placed on marquee signing Mark Quigley who arrived from 2012 league champions Sligo Rovers. Quigley buckled and was incapable of rediscovering the form which helped bring the league title out west. He has since ripped up his Rovers contract and rejoined Pats.

Sligo Rovers wrapped up the season in style with a stunning 3-2 victory over Drogheda United in the FAI Cup final. A late brace from supersub Danny North saw the Bit O’Red edge this topsy turvy encounter and take the coveted blue riband back to the west.

With the off season now in full swing, much still has to be decided with plenty of movement to be expected ahead of the new season which kicks off in little over eight weeks time.

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