Stuart Byrne on the biggest threats to Dundalk and Cork City

Ex-Shelbourne midfielder looks ahead to the new League of Ireland season

Stuart Byrne on the biggest threats to Dundalk and Cork City

League of Ireland

Stuart Byrne has tipped Derry City and Shamrock Rovers to make a surprise run for the 2017 League of Ireland Premier Division crown if Dundalk and Cork City don't live up to expectations.

The new season starts on Friday and Stuey was on Off The Ball to give his thoughts on the season to come.  

"Don't be surprised, if Dundalk through this transition period leave the door open for somebody, if a Derry or a Rovers maybe take the opportunity," he said.

"I wouldn't be fully convinced that Cork will go steamrolling through that door if it is left open. I do think Derry and Rovers will be stronger and because of that, it's going to be a dogfight between that Top Four." 

On Dundalk, Stuey highlighted their resilience when it comes to replacing departing star players with Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle among those to have left. 

"The one thing this squad of players and this manager have been very good at doing over the years is filling the void left by big players," he said, picking out Patrick McEleney as a player capable of stepping up.

Cork City have been unlucky to have come up against the Dundalk three in a row side and Stuey feels a mentality issue needs to be overcome.

"There's no doubt about it, that they have the squad to do it and the players to do it but that is the single biggest issue for this manager. He has to convince them that squad of players that they're good enough to go on and win it," said Stuey, adding that the FAI Cup win will have provided somewhat of a boost.

The decision to reduce the Premier Division from 12 teams to 10 from the 2018 season means three teams automatically go down at the end of the campaign.

That means an almighty battle to avoid the drop for at least half of the Premier Division teams during the 2017 season.

"It was a poor decision made. The timing of it was awful. I can guarantee you, give it seven or eight weeks time, you'll probably have one or two clubs struggling to pay players because they realise they're gone already and that's where it really starts hitting the playing side of things," said Stuey.