Manager: Alan Reynolds
Stadium: The Regional Sports Centre
Players in: David Webster (Shamrock Rovers), Bastian Hery (Limerick), John Kavanagh – Loan (Cork City), Ismahil Akinade (Bohemians), Rory Feely (St Patrick’s Athletic), Niall Corbet (UCD), Gavan Holohan (Galway United), Faysel Kasmi (Lierse SK), Stanley Aborah (Unattached).
Players Out: Aaron Drinan (Ipswich), Shane O’Connor (Longford Town), David McDaid (Larne FC), Jack Lynch (Cobh Ramblers), Mark O’Sullivan (Limerick FC).
Extratime.ie Key Man: Kenny Browne.
Browne re-joined his hometown team ahead of the 2017 season from Cork City and was immediately named club captain upon his arrival. The veteran defender was a key figure in the Blue’s defence as they conceded just 17 league goals last season, which was the best defensive record across both Divisions.
Browne is the ideal candidate to help Waterford stay in the division, the 31-year-old doesn’t lack in experience having helped lead St. Patrick’s Athletic to a league title in 2013. His leadership and ability to bring the backline together through his great communication and no nonsense approach to defending will be a key if the Blues are to stay in the division.
Extratime.ie One To Watch: Gary Comerford
An underappreciated member of last year’s First Division title winning squad, Gary Comerford was the clubs leading appearance maker in the league starting 25 games. The versatile midfielder can also slot in at left back and was part of the deadliest midfield in the First Division, forming a formidable partnership with Derek Daly.
The midfielder was at the heart of the Blues engine room last season, doing all the dirty work needed and helping to dictate play. His work-rate and ball playing ability could be the key to help unlock Premier Division defences this season and with the additions of Bastian Hery, Stanley Aborah and Gavan Holohan, it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep his place in the starting eleven.
How they did last season:
League: 1st (First Division Champions)
After a busy off season which saw a new chairman as well as a squad overhaul, Waterford fans were expecting a strong showing. They were seen as title contenders by many but despite this, they fell to a 1-0 defeat against Athlone on the opening day of the season. This proved to be a minor setback as they rebounded strongly, winning 11 of their next 15 games before being halted in their tracks by a 3-2 defeat to UCD.
They lost just once more before the end of the season and had secured promotion back to the Premier Division with weeks to spare. Highlights from their league season include an impressive 2-0 win over UCD in Belfield, a 6-1 demolishing of Athlone at Lissywoolen and a 4-0 win over closest rivals Cobh Ramblers.
FAI Cup: First Round
Despite running away with the First Division title, Waterford failed to make it out of the first round of the FAI Cup. David McDaid missed a penalty as the Blues fell to 10-man Shelbourne by a 3-0 score line.
EA Sports Cup: Quarter Finals
The club had better luck in the EA Sports Cup than they did in their other domestic cup outings, making it to the quarter finals. They convincingly saw off Wexford in the first round with a five-star performance thanks to braces from McDaid and Owen Wall as well as a further goal from Gary Delaney.
They met First Division rivals Cobh Ramblers in the next round with a goal in each half from Dean O’Halloran and Derek Daly sealing their spot in the next round. They were rewarded with a trip to Oriel Park to face Premier Division champions Dundalk. Goals from Ciaran Kilduff, Thomas Stewart and Connor Clifford were enough however to end the Blues’ cup ambitions for another year.
Munster Senior Cup: Quarter Finals
The Blues entered the competition at the quarter final stage and wouldn’t venture any further as they were bested by Munster Senior League side Wilton United. Three goals from the non-League side was enough to see them dump out their League opposition.
What to Expect this season:
2018 marks the second year of the teams foray into full-time football under Lee Power, and like last season recruitment has been a big focus for the club. Nine new names have been added to the squad for the upcoming campaign, with a mix of Premier Division experience and foreign flair.
The addition of Niall Corbet from UCD will create a talented goalkeeping tandem with Matthew Connor while David Webster and John Kavanagh will add depth and help further shore up their already strong defence.
The signing of Izzy Akinade provides a target man up top for wingers and midfielders to aim for; his hold up play and finishing will prove vital if he is able to recapture his form from seasons past.
Gavan Holohan and Bastian Hery were solid parts of Premier Division midfields last season and could help add a new dimension to the team’s style of play. Talented 21-year-old Rory Feely could also prove to be a fine acquisition, the Kildare man can slot into the centre of midfield as well as the defence and could have a breakout season under Alan Reynolds.
The Belgian duo of Stanley Aborah and Faysel Kasmi signal the end of the transfer activity. Journeyman Aborah fits in right in the centre of midfield and was used as a holding player by Notts County and Portsmouth to help break up the play. Playmaker Kasmi joins from Belgian First Division B side Lierse SK and plays primarily through the centre, but can also be utilised on the wings if necessary.
After the success of last season, the Blues will look to use this season to establish a base for the club going forward. Last year Power invested heavily to make Waterford contenders, and nothing less than promotion was expected last year. Now that they are here, the former Ireland under-21 international will be expecting his team to stay afloat so that the club can continue to build and grow into the powerhouse he envisioned them to be.
Alan Reynolds and Pat Fenlon have created a squad who are ready to scrap to maintain their Premier Division status. Avoiding relegation should be their primary goal, the squad is most certainly capable of overachieving as a possible mid-table finish wouldn’t be out of their grasp, but they can’t allow themselves to be carried away just yet.
Expect a side that will fight for every inch throughout the season and will continue to push to exceed expectations. They certainly have the ability to cause an upset and will be looking to take scalps off the big boys in the division on their way to a comfortable, safe, finish.
Title Odds: 33/1
First Game: Derry City (Home), Friday February 16th (kick off at 7:30).