Manager: Tim Clancy
Stadium: United Park
Players in: Thomas Byrne, Luke Heeney, Luke McNally (loan) (all St. Patrick’s Athletic), James Brown, Mark Hughes, Cian Kavanagh (Shelbourne)
Players out: William Hondermarck (Norwich City), Ciaran Kelly (St. Patrick’s Athletic), Lloyd Buckley, Gareth McCaffrey, Kealan Dillon (all Athlone Town), Richie Purdy (Bray Wanderers), Lee Duffy (Warrenpoint Town), Rob Manley (Cabinteely).
Extratime.ie Key Man: Thomas Byrne
Drogheda have a number of options in attacking areas this season, including Chris Lyons and Mark Doyle who impressed greatly last season. Thomas Byrne and Adam Wixted have both returned for second and third spells with the club while Stephen Meaney is again available after missing much of last season through injury.
Byrne is a player with a great deal of talent, shown at times in his first spell at Drogheda and his time last season with St. Patrick’s Athletic. Byrne has the ability to play up front, in behind the striker or on the wing, and has goals in his locker too.
However, the 20-year-old has been sent off four times in the last two seasons, twice for Drogheda and twice for St. Pat’s. If Tim Clancy can get a lid on Byrne’s discipline issues from recent seasons, then the former Brighton & Hove Albion forward could well be the one to light up the First Division this season, particularly from Drogheda’s point of view.
Extratime.ie One to Watch: Luke McNally
The young defender has joined on loan from St. Patrick’s Athletic, after signing a new two-year deal with the Saints. McNally previously played for Drogheda’s U17 side and could be the player to replace Ciaran Kelly, who was returned to St. Patrick’s Athletic following a standout season at Drogheda.
Kelly played every minute in the league for Drogheda last season whilst also netting six goals, becoming a key player in the Boynesiders’ promotion challenge.
McNally has looked impressive in pre-season and his reward of a new two-year deal from St. Pat’s, and a loan deal to give him an opportunity of first team football, may signal that he could be the player who fills Drogheda’s void left by Kelly.
How they did last season:
League: Drogheda finished fourth in the First Division in 2018, a point behind Shelbourne, five behind Harps and eight behind champions UCD.
Their league finish saw Drogheda progress to the play-offs where they faced Shelbourne in the third vs fourth placed tie. The first leg saw Shelbourne win 1-0 thanks to a first half James English header at United Park. The second leg at Tolka Park saw Drogheda progress to face Finn Harps after they beat nine-man Shelbourne on penalties.
Sean Brennan opened the scoring for Drogheda in between Reece McEnteer and James English red cards for Shelbourne before Chris Lyons scored a second for the visitors after the hour mark.
Shelbourne substitute Adam Evans took the game to extratime though as he netted just seven minutes after coming on for Greg Moorhouse. It was Drogheda who won on penalties though and progressed to face Finn Harps.
The first leg against Finn Harps, at United Park ended in a 1-1 draw as Ciaran Kelly and Nathan Boyle scored for their respective sides. Harps, who would go on to beat Limerick and earn promotion, beat Drogheda 2-0 in the second leg thanks to goals from John Kavanagh and Nathan Boyle.
FAI Cup: Second Round
Drogheda pulled off a shock in the First Round by beating Shamrock Rovers 1-0, thanks to a Chris Lyons penalty, won by William Hondermarck, who has now signed for Norwich City.
The second round saw Drogheda drawn against another Premier Division side in Waterford but they narrowly lost out, as Bastien Hery’s fourth minute strike was enough to send Waterford through.
EA Sports Cup: Second Round
Drogheda were drawn against St. Mochta’s in the first round. Dean Kelly’s 19th minute penalty gave the non-league side the lead before three goals in twelve minutes from Mark Doyle, Eoin McPhillips and Stephen Meaney put Drogheda ahead at the break. Philly Hughes scored from long range late but Drogheda held on to progress to the second round.
Drogheda fielded a youthful side in the second round and were easily brushed aside by Shelbourne, who were four goals to the good at half time, thanks to goals from Dave Mulcahy, Dylan Grimes, Cian Kavanagh and a Jamie Doyle penalty.
Jamie Doyle scored twice more in the second half, while Shane Farrell also netted as Shelbourne won 7-2, with Drogheda’s goals coming from Sean Trimble and William Hondermarck.
What to expect this season:
In what again looks set to be a competitive First Division, Drogheda’s aim will be to again make a push for promotion. Despite having lost a number of players in the off-season, Tim Clancy did make signings of his own, including a number of young talents whilst also keeping a core of the squad from last year.
Title Odds: 11/1 (Paddy Power).
First game: vs Cobh Ramblers, United Park, Friday 22nd February, 7:45pm.