Manager: Stephen Henderson
Stadium: St. Colman’s Park.
Players in: Andy Wall (Freebooters), Jack Lynch (Waterford), Adam O’Sullivan (Cork City).
Players out: Cian Coleman (Limerick).
Extratime.ie Key Man: Jack Lynch
20-year-old central defender Lynch contributed handsomely, albeit mostly from the bench, to Waterford’s league title win and to their promotion to the Premier Division, emulating his father Tommy’s feat in 1998. That experience should serve Lynch well at St. Colman’s Park and significantly augment Ramblers' 2018 campaign.
The composed and versatile former Limerick player is expected to adopt a leadership role in the Ramblers system. He’ll combine that role with his bio-medical engineering studies at the University of Limerick.
Extratime.ie One to Watch: Cian Leonard
Ramblers found goals hard to come by last season, averaging under 1.5 goals per game, which was just the joint fourth best in the division. That ratio will need to improve if the Cobh men are to challenge for the 2018 title, and Stephen Henderson will look to ex-Cork City striker Cian Leonard to provide much of that goal threat.
Leonard scored two league goals in eight appearances in claret and blue last term, including a memorable winner away to Shelbourne on 18th August. August was a good month for Leonard as he also scored for Cobh in a 2-0 home victory over Longford. Those contributions to Ramblers’ 100% league record in August helped the striker to the extratime.ie First Division Player of the Month award.
Leonard has been lively, without finding the net, in Cobh’s 2018 pre- season. That was against full-time defenders and the 18-year-old attacker can be expected to provide much of Ramblers’ firepower during the upcoming season. Leonard and his current Cobh colleagues Adam Mylod, David Hurley and Kevin Taylor all played in the UEFA Youth league when the quartet were on the books of Cork City.
How they did last season:
Although operating with a vastly inferior budget to main rivals Waterford, Ramblers pushed their Munster neighbours all the way as Alan Reynolds, John Frost and Pat Fenlon masterminded the Blues’ return to the Premier Division. Cobh were rightly entitled to bemoan the absence of the play-offs from last year’s programme as the league transitioned to two divisions of ten teams.
Second place in any other season would have booked Ramblers an opportunity to contest promotion/relegation in post regular season encounters with Premier Division opposition.
While Ramblers were denied that opportunity, Stephen Henderson can take much encouragement from how his young charges tackled the challenge of League of Ireland football and threw down the gauntlet to more vaunted opposition.
Henderson’s youthful squad picked-up the silver medals, having finished eight points behind the Blues from the RSC. Ramblers won seven times on the road but perhaps an inability to pick up away draws ultimately cost them the title. St. Colman’s Park remains a fortress for visiting teams with the home side boasting a goal difference of +12 last year. Ramblers won nine home league games last term and lost just two.
FAI Cup: First Round
Ramblers fans’ cup hopes were extinguished when Premier Division Limerick completed a first half demolition job at St. Colman’s Park to win 3-0 on 12th August. Garbhan Coughlan netted an early brace for the Shannonsiders and when Chiedozie Ogbene added another on 37 minutes, there was no way back for Ramblers.
EA Sports Cup: Second Round
Second half goals by Matthew Whelan and Shane Lowth gave Ramblers a 2-0 opening round victory over Munster Senior League side Avondale United. Their second-round reverse to Waterford was the Cobh side’s second loss to the Blues at the RSC inside two weeks. One down inside half an hour to Dean O’Halloran’s opener, Ramblers were well in the match until Derek Daly killed the tie with a close range 87th minute finish.
What to expect this season:
Ramblers have made some strategic additions to their squad (with Andy Wall and the returning Adam O’Sullivan joining Lynch in the 2018 set-up). So, as they begin their sixth season in the first division, is this a year for Ramblers to make another meaningful promotion push?
The presence of Galway United, Drogheda United and Longford Town has driven perceived wisdom to suggest that Ramblers will spend 2018 in the lower reaches. However, one senses that manager Stephen Henderson and assistant Stuart Ashton have loftier ambitions in mind.
Cobh do not have cash to splash. The all-amateur approach inevitably means they will rely on youth but the club boasts a track record of developing and improving young players. Cian Coleman is one such player. He contributed four goals to the Cobh cause last season, but the former Cork City midfielder’s performances have earned him a move to Premier Division Limerick.
Stephen Henderson’s pre-season programme included friendlies against four full-time sides. Cobh failed to find the net in defeats to Limerick, Cork City, Waterford and Shamrock Rovers but the Division One outfit were not disgraced in any of the four matches.
In recent interviews with extratime.ie, Henderson referred to “normalising over-achievement,” feeling that his side hasn’t been given enough credit for their recent exploits. We expect Cobh to be in strong promotion contention again.
Away from the first team the club are maintaining a focus on youth, fielding sides in the Under 15, Under 17 and Under 19 grades.
Title Odds: 7/1
First game: Ramblers will make their way to the midlands to open their 2018 campaign against Longford Town at City Calling Stadium on Saturday 24th February (kick-off 7.30pm).