Graham Gartland: History-chasing Hoops will take some stopping
Shamrock Rovers remain the clear favourites for the Premier Division title as they seek an unprecedented five-in-a-row, according to RTÉ soccer analyst Graham Gartland.
Stephen Bradley's team recovered from a wretched start and a demoralising European campaign to seal a fourth league title in a row in 2023, emulating the celebrated Hoops side of the mid-1980s.
While the consensus was they showed more frailty than in previous campaigns, none of the other touted challengers, Derry City and subsequently St Patrick's Athletic, had the consistency to stick with the champions.
Ahead of the five-in-a-row tilt, Bradley has brought in tried and trusted players, including former player Aaron McEneff, ex-Pat's winger Darragh Burns, Cork City defender Josh Honohan, as well as extending the loan deal of Estonian midfielder Markus Poom.
"They've signed loads of lads who either know the club or know the league," Gartland said on the RTÉ Soccer podcast.
"They're not bringing anybody that's unknown, that has to settle.
"Honohan comes in from Cork, he played in the Premier Division last year, he was probably their best defender. Poom's obviously come back on loan, had a good season last year. McEneff's come back, had a brilliant career here before he went to Hearts. Burns, who did brilliantly at Pat's before he went away.
"They're bringing in lads who know the league and they can hit the ground running. They know what to expect when they go to these games."
While it famously took them until their seventh league game to register their first win last season, they appear to be in ruder health this time around, if their 3-1 President's Cup win over Pat's is any guide.
This was won without any need to send for their two Irish internationals, Jack Byrne