Pictured at today (Tuesday’s) SSE Airtricity League Launch at the Aviva Stadium were: Bohemians’ Keith Buckely, UCD’s Gary O’Neill, St. Patrick’s Athletic’s Ian Birmingham, Finn Harps’ Sam Verdon, Dundalk’s Brian Gartland, Cork’s Colm Horgan, Shamrock Rovers’ Sean Boyd, Waterford FC’s Matthew Connor, Derry’s Barry McNamee and Ronan Murray of Sligo Rovers. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne.
2019 League of Ireland Preview
After a brilliant first year back in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division that yielded a fourth-placed finish and a return to European football in 2019, Waterford FC are now looking forward to what should be another gripping year of League of Ireland football.
For manager Alan Reynolds, it has been a difficult period as he has tried to put together a squad that will be more than capable of competing in the top division however his cause hasn’t been helped by some cutbacks from owner Lee Power with some potential targets lost.
That said however the club is in a very good place at the minute and Reynolds will be hoping to get some more players in before the first ball is kicked in anger next Friday night when the Blues entertain Shamrock Rovers at the RSC.
With the sale of season tickets at an all-time high, it’s an exciting time to be a supporter of the club with the return of European football set to come to Waterford in July, but the focus must be on doing well once again in the league.
There’s no doubting that playing in the Europa League is something to look forward to and it promises to be an amazing night at the RSC when that comes around, but the club really need the support of the fans during the league campaign.
On the pitch it’s a very difficult start for Alan Reynolds’ side as they start off against Shamrock Rovers before away trips to Cork and Derry in the space of three days. On the opening day of last season, the Blues got off to a winning start when they defeated Derry City and they also defeated Shamrock Rovers when they visited the RSC in the first series of games so they’ll won’t be fearing the Tallaght outfit this Friday.
The squad seems to be lacking in a couple of areas with only two recognised strikers, Izzy Akinade and Dean Walsh, signed for the upcoming campaign but manager Reynolds is understood to be looking at signing another attacker in the not too distant future.
With Karolis Chvedukas announced over the weekend, there is a strong possibility of further signings before Friday’s opening fixture as was the case last season and this is one area of concern for supporters whilst the club have also only one goalkeeper on their books in Matthew Connor. The midfield looks secure with the additions of Shane Duggan, JJ Lunney and Zack Elbouzedi with all three impressing during pre-season.
The return of Kenny Browne to the squad for the forthcoming campaign is a massive boost and he’ll be joined by former Republic of Ireland and Crystal Palace player Damien Delaney, who signed for the club after a spell with Munster rivals Cork City.
Maxi Kouogun and Kevin Lynch have also joined the club this season from UCD and Bray Wanderers respectively in what is a very solid defence with last year’s young player of the year Rory Feely also fighting for a place in the starting eleven for the opening game of the season.
With 36 games in the Premier Division this season schedule, Waterford will be looking for a good start to the season and try to get points on the board early doors. The game against Shamrock Rovers will be a tough game, but one that Reynolds will be targeting to get a positive result before two tough away trips.
It was fantastic to see the crowds return to the RSC last season and it would be great to see even bigger attendances for the season ahead. It promises to be another rollercoaster ride and one that we’ll all be hoping will reach new heights.
While it could take a few games for this squad to gel, everyone will be hoping that they hit the ground running and there’s no reason why they can’t compete in the hope of landing an European spot which will be the main objective for the season ahead. That said however we’ll all gladly take safety from relegation!