LEAGUE champions Cork City stand to benefit from the changes to European club football next year.
If the Leesiders happen to be eliminated from their Champions League first qualifying round tie, they will be parachuted into the Europa League.
That safety net had been previously reserved for the second qualifying round and the FAI’s Fran Gavin said that Cork would expect to be seeded if they were to enter the Europa League via this route. It guarantees City at least four matches in Europe in 2018, and it leaves them in a strong position to make a push to the group stages of the Europa League.
Dundalk, last season, and Shamrock Rovers have both made it to the lucrative group stages and competed well.
It’s a welcome boost for John Caulfield’s charge who wrap up their league programme at home to Bray Wanderers at Turner’s Cross tomorrow night (7.45pm) when they will be presented with the SSE Airtricity League trophy at the final whistle.
With the World Cup in Russia next summer, the domestic league for the 2018 season is due for an early kick-off in mid-February.
With three extra games in the Premier Division and eight in the First Division, the new season is set to begin a week earlier than this year’s February 24 start.
The other change could see the mid-season break last for up to three weeks but that all depends on the result of Ireland’s two-legged World Cup, play-off with Denmark next month.
Also next season, the league will revert to ‘one up-one down’ with the promotion/relegation play-offs returning which will be of interest to Cobh Ramblers’ Stephen Henderson who was denied that option this time.
Waterford, the early favourites, won the First Division title, but Cobh were their nearest challengers all throughout the campaign.