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Season review: Republic of Ireland

Published: Tuesday 12 November 2013, 9.15CET
Saint Patrick's Athletic FC ended a 14-year wait for the Premier Division title ahead of surprise package Dundalk FC while Sligo Rovers FC had the consolation of an FAI Cup win.
by Aidan Fitzmaurice
from Dublin
Season review: Republic of Ireland
Saint Patrick's Athletic celebrate winning the league ©Sportsfile

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Published: Tuesday 12 November 2013, 9.15CET

Season review: Republic of Ireland

Saint Patrick's Athletic FC ended a 14-year wait for the Premier Division title ahead of surprise package Dundalk FC while Sligo Rovers FC had the consolation of an FAI Cup win.

Saint Patrick's Athletic FC ended a 14-year wait for the Irish Premier Division title, the side coached by former international Liam Buckley securing the crown with two games to spare.

Reigning champions Sligo Rovers FC had started strongly, winning eight successive games, but their form dipped and they had to settle for third place, though they had the compensation of lifting the FAI Cup. At European level it was a disappointing season, however, as all four Irish clubs in UEFA competition exited at the first hurdle.

Champions: St Patrick's Athletic FC
If the mood pre-season at Richmond Park was low as St Patrick's lost assistant manager Trevor Croly and several players to Shamrock Rovers FC, things got even gloomier on the second weekend of the campaign when Pats were beaten 3-0 by the same Dublin rivals.

Sligo made a stunning start but mid-term injuries and suspensions slowed the champions down and the Saints regrouped to finish the season in style. Striker Anto Flood found his scoring touch and August's 4-0 win at Shamrock Rovers avenged their earlier loss to the Hoops. Finally, a 2-0 home victory over Sligo earned Pats the title with two matches left.

Cup final: Sligo Rovers FC 3-2 Drogheda United FC
English striking imports Danny North and Anthony Elding played a pivotal role in the 2013 FAI Cup final, Sligo coming from behind to beat Drogheda United 3-2 at the Dublin Arena. The 70th-minute arrival of ex-Grimsby Town FC man North turned the game as Sligo came from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 with two goals from North. Although Ryan Brennan then scored for Drogheda in stoppage time to make it 2-2, in the fourth minute of added time North's lay-off set up Elding to claim the winner. So despite playing just 20 minutes' football in November, North still collected the player of the month award from the Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland.

European places*
Saint Patrick's Athletic FC – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
Dundalk FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Sligo Rovers FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Derry City FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Killian Brennan, St Patrick's Athletic FC
Former Derry City and Bohemian FC player Brennan had a torrid time at Shamrock Rovers in 2012 but his switch across Dublin to St Patrick's helped revive his career. After the 29-year-old was moved into central midfield from the wide position he had become used to, Brennan proved a key figure in the Saints' championship success. Brennan beat off competition from some team-mates to be named Players' Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland.

One to watch: Richie Towell, Dundalk FC
Midfielder Towell returned to his native Dublin after spells in Scotland with Celtic FC and Hibernian FC but found himself playing non-league football with amateurs Bluebell United. That was until newly appointed Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny brought him to Oriel Park this year, and the Republic of Ireland Under-21 cap had a stunning debut season – helping Dundalk to the semi-finals of the FAI Cup and also a place in UEFA competition next term. Personal highlights included a goal of the month award for his strike in August's 2-0 win at University College Dublin AFC and a hat-trick against Derry the following month.

Surprise package: Dundalk FC
Given they narrowly avoided relegation in 2012, expectations were low at Dundalk, especially as new boss Kenny had to hastily assemble a squad just before the season started. But a vibrant side, with young players like Towell, Kurtis Byrne and Patrick Hoban stepping up a grade with the support of veterans like Scottish goalkeeper Peter Cherrie, made a real push for honours and while they finished without a trophy, 2013 was a massive success. Dundalk came second to secure UEFA Europa League football.

Leading scorer: Rory Patterson, Derry City FC, 18

Relegated: Shelbourne FC

Promoted: Athlone Town FC

Number: 21 – number of seasons played by defender Owen Heary, 37, before he hung up his boots after Bohemians' campaign finale against Drogheda.

Quote:
"The key moment in our season was when we lost 3-0 to Shamrock Rovers early on – we had a great team meeting after that game, we just got together as a group and said we had to get this right. And it worked. It was humiliating to lose 3-0 to one of your main rivals. And we only lost two games in the league after that, as we went on to win the league. We were deserved champions." Conan Byrne, St Patrick's midfielder

Last updated: 12/11/13 12.18CET

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