Improving Ireland with Sligo Rovers

Glad to see this back ^^)

hopefully that is the last of the peculiarities as a result of the World Cup staying in Qatar.

Cheers mate, and I hope so! Just typical that it had to happen in the season where we could've got into the last 16 of the Champions League, it might be a while until we get that chance again!
Formation Change

Last year we lost 1 and drew 1 in the entire league campaign yet we've already done worse than that this year with 13 games still to play!

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But to be honest there’s no way that we’re not going to win the league and we’re still on course to win every domestic honour. The 2 losses did, however, prompt a formation change to a good old 4-2-3-1.

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Despite getting to the group stage last season, we have to start our Champions League campaign in the 1st​ qualifying round. Our opponents were the champions of San Marino!

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We obviously comfortably won those two games and faced the champions of Belarus, Dinamo Brest, in the second round. We also beat them easily.

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In case you've forgotten (sometimes i do) I'm the manager of the Irish national team. With them, we’ve played 4 EURO 2024 qualifiers and our fate already looks to have been sealed.

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Poland and Slovenia look like they’ll finish in the top two. In all honesty I’m not enjoying international management as much as I thought I would. We played well in our two losses but it’s results that matter and unless a miracle occurs we won’t be qualifying for the EUROs.

One player that could be making his Ireland debut very soon is Sligo produced Steve Keady.

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He’s first choice at the club despite only being 18 and looks like he’s going to be a huge player for club and country.​
Too Many Ferreira's

With the month of July comes the crazy part of our season as we juggle playing two games a week whilst dealing with transfers.

The first transfer out was centre back Paul Douglas, who said he wanted to go and set his own price tag at £1m. I managed to negotiate that to £1m plus a sell on fee and a loan back to us for a year from Arsenal.

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To be honest I’m not sure I rate him that much despite him being one of Ireland’s best centre backs if the star ratings are anything to go by.

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I thought Douglas would go permanently so to replace I bought in Tanguy Nianzou-Kouassi on loan from PSG. He’s a quality centre back for this level and we’re contributing exactly £0 to his wages.

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Another centre back, Japhet Tanganga, has joined Ipswich for £500k after 3 and a half years at the club.

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One more departure is that of Gustavo Ferreira to Porto for £4.5m.

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£4.5m is a Sligo record and is an excellent deal for someone we got on a free and is only worth £2.6m at Porto.

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It was especially good considering that his replacement was bought from Porto and is also named Ferreira. However, Vitor Ferreira cost us just £775,000.

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We’ve also signed goalkeeper Marcin Bulka after his contract at Chelsea expired. He is the highest paid player at the club but we needed a better goalkeeper and he will do for now.

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All of those new signings were introduced into the team in time for our Champions League Third Qualifying Round clash with Qarabag, who we beat in the first round 2 seasons ago.

We absolutely destroyed them in the first leg.

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Steve Keady is turning into a monster. He’s wanted by Arsenal and was not happy that I turned down a bid from them… but I’m doing whatever I can to keep him here.

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He was rested for the second leg but our backup team still comfortably won.

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Next up for us is Ajax in the Champions League Playoff Round.

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We’re just 2 games away from the group stage again!​
Looks like a great switch of Ferreira's there - you got the better end of those deals
Champions League Group Stage Again

We prepared for our game with Ajax with a 10-0 win over poor old Sheriff Youth Club in the FAI Cup.

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We weren’t quite as emphatic in the first leg against Ajax, but the game was a rollercoaster of emotions. It doesn’t get much better than two stoppage time goals from substitute Raul Uche to put us in the driving seat!

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It was a thoroughly deserved win in Amsterdam and we just had to see it over the line in the return leg.

I was expecting a tough encounter, but it was actually a comfortable second leg.

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We’re into the Champions League group stage for the second season in a row! Show me the money!

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It shows how far we’ve come that we can beat the best team in Holland with relative ease!

The group stage draw wasn’t the kindest and it looks like we’ll be battling it out for third place with Basel.

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As for Ireland, we’re still comfortably top.

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Our strikers are in blistering form this season. Steve Keady has 20 goals in 21 games whereas Raul Uche has 25 in 25. I also handed Keady a deserved Ireland debut in the last set of internationals

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But the most important thing is that there’s no Qatar World Cup to mess things up. If we do rubbish in the Champions League it’ll be our own fault and not the fault of Qatar.​
Looking Like Europa League Already

Our 2023 Champions League Group Stage started off with an away game against Borussia Dortmund, who are the current German champions.

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Just like with Man City last season, they were far too good for us and blew us away. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do.

Looking at the stats we wern't even that bad, it’s just every time they went forward they scored and every time Paco Alcacer had a shot it went in.

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It didn’t get much easier for us in our next group stage game as we faced Monaco, who got to the semi-final of the competition last season.

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It was a crazy game in which we got 2 players sent off yet we were still unlucky to lose against a vastly superior side.

After that Monaco game it was soon confirmed that we were the champions of Ireland for the fourth year in a row.

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And with that, the board gave us our budgets for the next transfer window and to say they were generous was an understatement!

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Back to the Champions League and a win was essential in our third group stage game against Basel who, like us, lost to Dortmund and Monaco in their first two games.

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The 5-1 thrashing confirmed that we’re very much the third best team in the group, which I’ll take.

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Steve Keady is now the top scorer in the Champions League with 10 goals in 10 games whereas Adam Lewis has the most assists with 8.

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Hopefully we make some progress in the Europa League knockout stage but we have to make sure we get there first!​
Double Quadruple

The domestic season is drawing to a close and we completed the quadruple for the second season in a row by beating Cork in the FAI Cup final.

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Straight after that was our next Champions League group stage match against Basel.

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It was another group stage win against them and another 2 goals for the competition’s top scorer Steve Keady.

It turns out that we are unable to do quiet and uneventful games and we showed that against Dortmund in our fifth group stage match.

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Once again we were actually a bit unlucky to lose but the result confirmed that we would finish third in the group with a game to go.

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Our final group stage game was our last of another long and crazy season. For the third Champions League game in a row the score ended 3-2.

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We’re only losing by one goal to Monaco and Dortmund so we’re not far away from competing with the big boys. The Europa League knockout rounds await us in February.

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Republic of Ireland

We played our final 2 Euro 2024 qualifiers in November and managed to ruin Poland’s 100% record by drawing with them in our final game.

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There wasn’t really much more we could’ve done and the Irish FA were satisfied with third position so my attention turned to qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.

Then, out of nowhere, I got a notification saying that we were playing Norway in a Euro 2024 playoff.

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I'm not going to lie, I'm not clued up when it comes to qualifying for the Euros but it all seems a bit strange. How can they finish fourth in their group and still be in with a chance of qualifying? What’s the point in qualifiers?

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To be honest if it means we get to the EUROs by beating Norway then I don’t care!
Is it all to do with the Nations League ?

I'm honestly not sure. At first I thought it was but it was just the 16 teams that got the points in the qualifying groups that did not finish first. I forgot to take a screenshot but there were 16 teams that went into these playoffs and there was a one legged semi final and final so only 4 get through to Euro 2024.
2023 Season Review

We got 11 less points and scored 8 less goals than last season in the league but I’m not too fussed about that. We won every domestic trophy on offer so that’s all that matters.

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Raul Uche was top scorer, averaging more than a goal a game.

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He’s been with us 4 seasons and should be a back up player by now, but he keeps on delivering the goods.

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Talking of which, Steve Keady is also the man. I had no idea he’d turn out to be this good when he came through our youth intake a few years ago.

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He’s unhappy about not getting a move to Arsenal so I think he’ll be very hard to keep hold of. Both he and Uche scored over 30 goals in all competitions this season.

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As mentioned before, we’ve got some ridiculous budget for next year. I’ll only spend it if I find players that are an upgrade on what we have and it may be difficult because our pre-season transfer window is in January.

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After finishing third in our Champions League group we’ve been drawn against Celtic in the Europa League First Knockout Round

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It’s once again a harsh draw for us. 2 seasons ago Celtic knocked us out in the second knockout round before going on to win the competition.

Irish Football Summary – 2023

National Team Ranking: 62nd (was 58th​ in 2022)
Nation Coefficient Ranking: 26th (was 29th​ in 2022)
Airtricity Premier League Players in Ireland Squad: 6

Irish Teams in Europe:

Dundalk and St Pats: Europa League 2nd​ Qualifying Round
Limerick: Europa 1st Round

As the name of the story suggests, this save is about improving Ireland and not just Sligo. But for a number of years the other Irish teams in Europe have not been helping us out so I’ve decided to take things into my own hands.

The next post will go into detail about how I’m trying to build up Ireland rather than just Sligo.​
Cobh Ramblers and Dundalk

Now that Sligo are easily the best team in Ireland I am trying to make more of an attempt to improve the Irish league as a whole.

For a while I have been bringing a lot of youth players to Sligo. They have mainly been from the under 18 teams of big clubs in England when their contracts expire and it has always been my intention to either loan or sell these players to other Irish clubs.

Here’s a list of all of the players that were on loan last season.

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I have offered nearly all of these players to opposing clubs for £0 but for some reason Irish clubs are not interested. It’s particularly annoying baring in mind a 2 and a half star player means they are a top-level player for the Irish league.

So, at the start of the 2023 season (the season that has just passed) I saw that Cobh Ramblers was the only managerial job available. They had just finished bottom of the Airtricity First Division.

So I decided to make them my little project by adding a new manager to the game to take charge of them.

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Long story short, I basically did all the things the AI is rubbish at (like employing good staff and making good transfers/loans) and downloaded an overpowered tactic before holidaying the entire season with them.

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Cobh Ramblers were predicted to finish bottom of the league in 2023. This is how the table ended up…

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They will be playing in the Airtricity Premier League next season!

The idea originally was to loan or effectively give Sligo players to Cobh for free, however I made the mistake of not taking into account that no Sligo player would agree to join them because their reputation was so low.

Then, about a month ago, the Dundalk job became available.

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So yeah, I added a manager to Dundalk as well!

They have massively underperformed in the save and I want the other Irish teams to do well in Europe so I am hoping I can just give a lot of the talented young players I have stockpiled at Sligo to Dundalk.

One thing I’ve noticed with Dundalk is the amount of players at the club who are on £200-£300 a week but are nowhere near good enough.

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So many players are just eating up the wage budget, which again is down to the AI. So those players are getting released and I’m going to try and get as many good players and staff to the club as possible before holidaying the entire season like I did with Cobh Ramblers.

Dundalk finished third in 2023 so will be in the Europa League next season.

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I’m not going to go into much detail about Cobh and Dundalk for the rest of the save as this is more of an experiment just to see what happens. However, it will be interesting to see how well they both do next year.

Hopefully we can create two teams that do well in Europe and also eventually give us a challenge in the domestic competitions too!

It’d be interesting to know your thoughts about this, whether you think it’s a good idea or whether you think it ruins the authenticity of the save etc.
It doesn't ruin the authenticity of the save for me mate. On the contrary, keen to see how you progress!
It doesn't ruin the authenticity of the save for me mate. On the contrary, keen to see how you progress!

I think the authenticity was ruined when my squad were still on pre-season holiday for a Champions League group game anyway! And it makes it a bit more interesting for me as I'm playing 60+ games per season yet only really bothered about the european matches.
2024 Pre Season Transfers

It’s been an emotional transfer window with a lot of players who have been at the club for a number of years leaving. It’s sad but needs to happen if we want to progress as a club.

First up was goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney

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He was first choice goalkeeper for the entirety of the save up until the middle of last season and joins championship side Preston to sit on the bench for 4x more money, which he deserves.

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Next to leave was Shayne Lavery who spent 4 seasons with us and scored 99 goals in all competitions. He joined Villa for £850,000

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Midfielder Matty Willock also joined a Championship side after spending 4 years with the club as Cardiff paid us £700,000. I’ve never known a more prolific box-to-box midfielder.

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And I thought that was it for the emotional goodbyes until Raul Uche got angry because I rejected a bid off Celta Vigo for him. I eventually let him leave too for £500,000.

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Rather than replace all of them at once we’ve just made one signing. At £1m Milorad Sveljo is our most expensive purchase of all time but is surely going to be worth it. We still have a large budget to spend in the summer to get more players like him to the club.

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Alan McCabe has been on loan at Dundalk for the past two seasons and will be part of the Sligo squad this season. With only 10 finishing I think I’m going to train him up as an inside forward.

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And that just about covers a hectic pre-season transfer window. Our first game of the campaign will be against Celtic in the Europa League 1st​ Knockout Round.
Europa League Pain... Again

Our first match of the 2024 season was the first leg of the Europa League Knockout Round versus Celtic. They’re a strong side in this save and were the favourites heading into the tie.

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And with a Sligo pre-season there’s always some injuries or you have a squad that isn’t match sharp. This time we got the injuries.

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It was only 2 players that were injured but as you can see we also had 3 players suspended. Included in this were both of our right backs and I was not prepared to play a youngster away at Celtic Park so centre midfielder Shane Dunne had the task of playing in a position he was completely unfamiliar with.

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So with no right back, 4 first team players either injured or suspended and it being the first game of the season against a team who were in the middle of their season and top of the league, it was never going to end well.

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I thought I was a managerial genius when makeshift right back Shane Dunne opened the scoring but it was not to be. It also never helps when captain Conor Masterson plays a 5.9.

We had 3 important players back from suspension for the second leg but the damage had been done at Celtic Park.

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We were so close to pulling off an almighty comeback but the injuries and suspensions in the first leg cost us. It means that we have been knocked out at the Europa League 1st​ knockout round for the second season in a row.

It’s extremely difficult having our pre-season from December to February because we’re just never fully ready for the knockout rounds of European competitions.

Moving swiftly on…

A signing I did not mention in my last post was that of 16 year old Frantisek Koubek from Sparta Prague for a measly £300,000.

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I threw him on as a substitute in the first league game against Waterford and he scored twice! With that he became the youngest scorer in Sligo’s history and I will be surprised if that ever gets surpassed.

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Adam Lewis has been at Sligo for 5 years and has accepted my invitation to represent Ireland at international level.

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He was in the squad for our EURO 2024 semi-final playoff against Norway, which for some reason was our reward for finishing third in our group.

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But it was a similar story to many games I’ve had with Ireland. We play well but don’t win.

With that result our EURO 2024 hopes were over, again! I’ll stay in charge of Ireland for the 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign but if we don’t qualify for that I’ll quit the job as it’s getting a bit frustrating at times.

Now for the slog of the Irish season. The next post will be in 3 months time when we’re in the mid-season break in June.
It's Regen Time

So, it’s the mid-season break in June and the summer transfer window has recently opened. And boy have we been busy!

The major news is that Steve Keady has joined Leicester…

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…For £18m!

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I can’t believe we’ve produced an £18m player! Keady gets a deserved move to the Premier League and should be first choice for Leicester so I wish him well.

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Another sad departure is Kelechi Nwakali.

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He has joined German side FC Nurnberg and is a true Sligo legend. He tore the league apart in his first season on loan so it shows how far we’ve come that he is no longer needed at the club.

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Now let’s get into the exciting stuff, we have finally been able to attract some quality regens to the club!

Ignacio Lagos for £2.3m from Universidad de Chile

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Lagos had 6 months left on his contract and was wanted by Juventus so I made him our record signing and have no regrets.

David Shaw for £1.7m from Hibernian

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Shaw looks like one of Scotland’s brightest prospects so I was more than happy to trigger his release clause.

Vladimir Mitrovic for £500,000 from Radnicki

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I will never do an FM save without buying a regen from Serbia. How Mitrovic was only £500,00 I’ll never know.

Stefan Markoski for £1.8m from FK Partizan

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Markoski is another cheap Serbian who is already a full international and will replace Steve Keady for exactly 10% of the price we sold him to Leicester for.

Zdenek Licka for £1.9m from Slavia Prague

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Licka already has 5 caps for the Czech Republic at 18 years of age. I’m tempted to use him as a ball playing defender but I think it’s more likely that I’ll train him as a central midfielder as he’s already a natural deep lying playmaker.

And that is that. Those transfers mark a significant step in the save in that we can attract quality regens that will really allow us to take Sligo to another level.

Also, Ireland is now up to 19th​ in the coefficient rankings.

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It doesn’t change much but shows that our European form is almost singlehandedly moving Ireland up the rankings.

Talking of which, our opponents in the Champions League First Qualifying Round will be the champions of Gibraltar.

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I’m confident that we’ll be able to get to the group stage for the third season in a row with relative ease. Hopefully the new signings bed in straight away.​
Champions League Heartache

At this point our Champions League qualifiers are routine. We smashed College Europa in the first round with record signing Ignacio Lagos getting 4 goals and 4 assists in his first two Sligo games.

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Hungarian champions Ferencvarosi TC were then beaten in the second round.

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Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia were then our next victims.

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Slavia Prague were our opponents in the playoff to decide who got to the Champions League group stage.

It was about to be one of those nights in the first leg until a certain recent signing from Slavia Prague rescued us.

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Zdenek Licka broke the hearts of his former club by scoring a screamer, although they didn’t deserve anything at all from the game… just look at the stats!

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Despite the draw in the first leg I believed we would comfortably beat them in the second leg. It honestly never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t get through to the group stage…

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Yet we lost 3-2! Not taking our chances in the first leg cost us dearly and we will not be spending a third season in a row in the Champions League Group Stage.

Instead we’ll go into the Europa League group stage where some familiar opponents will join us. Both Dundalk and Cork got through to the group stages after starting out in the first qualifying round.

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After surprising everyone by getting to the group stage, Cork got the group of death whereas Dundalk didn’t have it much easier.

On the other hand we’ve been given some very interesting opponents in our group. Can you imagine these 4 teams battling it out in the Europa League group stage in real life?

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I laughed at St Mirren being in there but they beat Inter Milan and Schalke to get to the group stage so now I’m a bit scared!

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Also, I suppose I should show you the league table for the first time this season despite us being 25 games in.

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The Dundalk experiment is going well but we’re cruising towards our fifth league title in a row.​
Europa League Group Stage

I don’t normally post details of youth intakes but this year ours looks decent.


A one star current ability is pretty good for a 16-year-old Irish player and I didn’t think much of Steve Keady when he came through and we sold him for £18m so it will be interesting to see how these players develop.

In our first Europa League group stage match in three years we made hard work of it against FH of Iceland but eventually came out 3-0 winners.


Then a quality first half performance against top seeds Sevilla put us in pole position for the group.


A thing that I’ve not really been paying attention to is what stadium we’re playing at in the group stages. In the last few years we’ve played our home games at Cork City’s ground but this year we’re playing at ‘R.D.S’ which is the stadium of Leinster Rugby. (I had to google it).


Milorad Sveljko scored twice in the Sevilla game and is turning into a quality player.


Both he and Adam Lewis have been brilliant this season. Lewis is the set peice taker but even so 12 goals and 12 assists this season is a ridiculous amount for a left back.


In our next Europa League match we comfortably beat St Mirren, which means it looks like we’ll finish top of the group.


Dundalk are also top of their group and Cork are doing brilliantly in their group of death. These results are doing wonders for the coefficient points!


Dundalk have also been impressive in the league and we still haven’t actually confirmed the title yet because of their form.


However it is getting very interesting at the bottom with Cobh Ramblers looking like they’ll make the relegation playoff at worse.​
Triple Quadruple

There was nearly an upset in the FAI Cup but we managed to beat Shamrock Rovers on penalties in the final.


It means we’ve completed the domestic quadruple (The league, FAI Cup, EA Sports Cup and President’s Cup) 3 seasons in a row as we’ve won the league yet again.


The amount of games we play in a season is just ridiculous and it gets silly at the end of the season.

The Europa League group stage and cup replays mean that we are literally playing every two days so even when I put out an entirely different starting XI each game, the players are still tired!


Nevertheless, we won all our remaining Europa League group stage games meaning that we qualified for the first knockout round with ease.


Our final game of the season was a resounding 3-0 victory in Seville.


Yet it didn’t go as well for the other Irish teams. After winning their first 3 games, Dundalk lost their next 3 and finished third whereas Cork genuinely did well to get 5 points in their Europa League Group.


Our best European performance was 3 seasons ago when we got to the 2nd​ knockout round in the Europa League. Hopefully finishing first in the group gives us an easy opponent in the next round!​