THE days are counting down until the start of the 2021 League Of Ireland season finally returns.
For Cobh Ramblers the final preparations are being put in ahead of the big kick-off, which gets underway in some style against Cork City at Turner’s Cross.
At this particular juncture and although the second tier of Irish football looks like being insanely competitive this term, Ramblers appear to be building nicely.
The fact that the majority of the squad from last term were retained shows the belief in the camp, that this Cobh side has the potential to push on.
It is also perhaps another illustration of the big strides being made both on and off the pitch at Ramblers, as the club hope the next few years will offer much promise.
With plenty of big hitters in the First Division for 2021 such as Shelbourne, Cork City and Galway United, while the likes of Bray Wanderers and Athlone Town also assembling decent squads, Cobh will go under the radar of many people nationally. But that will suit Ramblers just fine, as they will try to quietly go about their business.
Ramblers were essentially only just minutes from making the playoffs in 2020 and one goal in that frustrating draw at home to Shamrock Rovers II would have been enough.
For Ramblers to kick on and make those playoffs will be a pretty big task make no bones about it. But the squad they have assembled could potentially give it another almighty big go.
Well-coached sides in the First Division have been very much in the promotion picture such as Ashton’s Ramblers and Cabinteely under Pat Devlin. Cobh will hope this is indeed the case again in 2021.
Former Cork City man Pierce Phillips will be looking to kick on again this term after a decent 2020. Alongside him in the middle of the park could very well be David O’Leary signed from Avondale, with the former City, Limerick and Galway United man set to bring great experience to the Ramblers midfield.
Lee Devitt played in a number of positions for Ramblers last term and brings good energy to the side. The Limerick native chipped in with a few goals and will be determined to this term also.
While John Kavanagh is like the Denis Irwin of Cobh Ramblers. He gives it his absolute all in terms of effort and with his passion is a vital element to the Cobh side. While former Waterford man Darryl Walsh will be seeking to build on a promising first campaign at the St Colman’s Park club.
Charlie Lyons will be key at the back again this term for Ramblers and he has been improving every year. Ben O’Riordan, the longest-serving player at the club offers plenty also, while Cian Murphy arriving from Galway United should mean competition for places in defence are strong.
Former Cork City and Kerry underage man Kevin Williams has been doing well in pre-season. Finding the back of the net will be absolutely essential for Cobh to have any chance of being in the promotion picture in 2021.
Competition for places in attack does seem to be quite decent from a Ramblers point of view. This could be a big season for Conor Drinan, who is the brother of current Ipswich Town forward Aaron.
Cobh have added attacking options from the Munster Senior League ranks and players who will also be determined to prove they can find the net on a national stage.
Jake Hegarty has been a potent scorer for Midleton, while Killian Cooper (College Corinthians) and a local in Ciaran Griffin (Cobh Wanderers) will also be keen to prove they can make the step up to League Of Ireland Football.
The acquisition of Regix Madika, a young attacker formerly with Waterford FC, could prove a very decent bit of business by Cobh.
Madika came through the Waterford FC underage system, making his first-team debut in 2019 and scoring for the Blues against Hearts in September of that year.
All things considered, looking at the Cobh squad there does seem to be a better mix between youth and experience.
Competition for places looks to be as strong as it has been for a few years.
However given the calibre of squads assembled by teams in the First Division, there will be a massive effort required by all at Cobh Ramblers if they aspire to make the promotion playoffs in 2021.