Chris Shields & Alan Kelly

This week on the show Dundalk FC Captain Chris Shields and former League of Ireland and Champions League referee Alan Kelly, now employing his match whistle stateside in the MLS, chat to co-hosts Alan Keane and Breifne Earley.

First order of business (0:09) is discussing the circumstances in which Alan was a no-show covering the Sligo Rovers game for Ocean FM in the Showgrounds on Saturday night. His emergency call out with the Sligo Fire Service took precedence over the game. It’s fine though, Joey Ndo (2:04) has firmly put his name in as a commentary option after his orgasmic WatchLOI debut at the same fixture.

Alan chats back through the results and news of the last week (3:26) with a double round of Premier Division fixtures, a full First Division slate and managerial changes and rumours in three of the clubs in the Premier Division with the return of Ruaidhri Higgins and Raff Cretaro to the league in the Derry City dugout.

Chris Shields (27:41) pops in to chat about Dundalk’s start to the season and how the mood is within the camp. He discusses the loss of Shane Keegan and Filippo Giovagnoli from the staff and how they have finally gotten their season up and running with their first win in the Louth derby against Drogheda last weekend.

Chris outlines the standard’s that have been set in Oriel Park in recent years and while the club’s league start has been sluggish by their own high standards he tells us about the plans for the campaign as their new signings become acclimatised to the surroundings in Dundalk.

When quizzed about how his Lithuanian or Korean has improved this season, he confirmed he has more trouble with the local Dundalk accent or Jim Magilton’s Belfast brogue.

All the way from Boston, former League of Ireland and UEFA referee Alan Kelly (45:07) drops in to the podcast all the way from the USA about his life, with the whistle in the MLS, over the last 8 seasons.

He discusses the differences between the two leagues, being nominated as MLS Referee of the Year on three occasions (2015, 16 & 2018) since moving stateside.

He talks about the supports for officials in the league with regular collective camps for fitness and education elements, the huge distances he was travelling each and every week to officiate once or twice a week and how he’ll never complain about driving from Cork to Derry ever again.

Alan also talks through the full set of fixtures set for this week’s Premier Division double round with games on Friday and Bank Holiday Monday and over next weekend.

James Claffey & Graham Merrigan

This week on the show we’re joined by Cobh Ramblers first team coach James Claffey and Shamrock Rovers super fan Graham Merrigan to chat about their season so far with co-hosts Dean Zambra and Breifne Earley.

James Claffey discusses his professional experience as a Sports & Exercise Psychology Consultant and lecturer at IBAT and Kilroy College which led to his involvement with a variety of sports teams. He chats about the growing role of psychology practitioners within the sport here in the league.

He talks about helping to create a culture where players can grow and develop within the existing club structure on and off the pitch. James also discusses the “White Coat Syndrome”, a stigma that still exists within the sports world about engaging with with psychology professional and the fact that most of the work with players is unseen and unmeasurable in the manner that strength and conditioning results can be recorded.

Super fan and podcaster Graham Merrigan joins the lads to talk about Rover’s return to the top of the table, Graham Burke’s long range goal on Tuesday evening as well as the problems the club are having replacing the creativity of Jack Byrne as they struggle to unlock defences so far this season.

He chat’s about the versatility of new arrivals like Sean Hoare, Sean Gannon and Danny Mandriou and the impact they have made so far in the season. He also looks forward to the first Dublin derby next weekend.

Dean & Breifne also take a look at the many news stories of the week from around the league including managerial changes at Oriel Park and confusion and clarifying statements from Brian Murphy after rumours started circulating about his future with Waterford.

Dean also talks through the full set of fixtures set for this week’s Premier Division double round with games on Tuesday and over next weekend.

John Gill & John Caulfield

This week Alan Keane & Breifne Earley are joined by league & FAI Cup winning coaches John Gill and John Caulfield. The two experienced campaigners, in opposite dugouts just two short seasons ago at the table topping clash between Dundalk and Cork, speak about the changes in both their own and their then club’s situations in the time since.

First Alan Keane runs through the games played last weekend across both divisions in the SSE Airtricity league including the late cancellation of the Cabinteely clash with Galway United which fell foul of Covid restrictions after a reported Covid 19 positive case in the Dublin side’s camp.

He also discusses the Clash of the Rovers as the game erupted in the last few minutes with Shamrock Rovers forcing a late equaliser after a goalkeeping mistake had handed the Bit O’Red the lead late on.

Former Dundalk manager John Gill (22:34) discusses what he’s been up to since leaving Oriel Park midway through last season. He chats about keeping an active interest in the league and how he has been impressed with Pat’s but that it’s going to be a tough call for any side to finish higher than Rovers.

Gill does a deep dive into his most recent role at Dundalk, the reasons behind his own decision to leave the club and the changes made around the club on and off the pitch.

He details the subtle, but important, differences between his role at Dundalk and the roles of Alan Mathews at Pat’s and Shane Keegan at Dundalk now as well as interactions from outside influences internally within the club and externally via social and mainstream media.

John Caulfield (46:36) talks about how his move to Galway United came about midway through last season and the changes he’s brought to the now full time operation at Eamonn Deacy Park with morning and double sessions the norm in the City of the Tribes.

Caulfield explains the fantastic work being done behind the scenes in Galway and the steps that have been taken by the enthusiastic members of the club’s board to back his ambitious plans to bring success back to United.

He outlines his concerns about the transient nature of the game and the way a few poor results can change the mood around a club and throughout a fan base. He discusses the need for all clubs in the league to attract better quality of sponsors and partners.

That’s a first step to allow players to be paid 52 weeks of the year, with a guarantee of getting their wages each and every week all year around.

Caulfield, who spend his formative years west of the Shannon, splitting his time between Galway and his adopted home of West Cork where his family are based.

Finally Alan and Breifne discuss the weekend’s fixtures (74:00) in both divisions ahead of another busy weekend as well as a quick fire run through the first round of mid week fixtures next week.

Lee Steacy & Paul McLoone

This week Dean Zambra & Breifne Earley peel back the layers at Longford Town as goalkeeper Lee Steacy joins his captain on the show. Breifne also chats to Finn Harps director Paul McLoone who’s been leading the push for the New Finn Harps Stadium project.

Dean & Breifne chat through last weekend’s action in both divisions of the SSE Airtricity League with the clash of Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk and Dean’s own Longford Town side hosting Sligo Rovers in a tight encounter topping the bill.

Lee Steacy (30:31) discusses his experience of the difference in levels between the First Division and the Premier Division and the miniscule amount of time even goalkeepers are given on the ball talking about the intensity of players like David Cawley of Sligo Rovers and Derry City’s David Parkhouse.

Steacy talks about the first three games and the experience of starting so well with the win and clean sheet against Derry, the comeback in Dalymount and the disappointment of defeat to Sligo.

He gets quizzed about the motivation for going to attack a corner late in the league game against Sligo and his ambitions to grab a league goal as a goalkeeper at some point in his career. Dean also asks him to discuss the quality of the goalkeepers currently plying their trade in the league.

Breifne has a chat with Finn Harps director Paul McLoone (45:20), a retired senior public servant in the north west, who has been heading up the New Finn Harps Stadium project for the last few years. The club received fantastic news last week with the announcement of a financial allocation of almost €4m from the Department of Sport through the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF).

He outlines the history of the stadium project and how he personally got involved after attending a public meeting in Ballybofey three years ago and the work that has revived the stalled development since then.

He explains the vital partnerships with Donegal County Council and the local partners in building a sporting hub in the twin towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar to retain Finn Park as a dedicated venue for the club’s academy and women’s football within the region alongside a new stadium and training facility at the new site beside the Finn Valley Sports Centre.

Finally Dean and Breifne discuss the weekend’s fixtures (63:13) in both divisions of the league ahead of another busy weekend.

Stephen O’Donnell, Michael O’Connor & Jack Keaney

This weekend St. Pat’s manager Stephen O’Donnell, Shels attacker Michael O’Connor and UCD Captain Jack Keaney join Alan Keane and Breifne Earley to talk about their respective starts to their SSE Airtricity League seasons.

Alan Keane talks through the games of the last week including briefly discussing Ireland’s qualifier defeats in Belgrade and at the hands of Luxemebourg. With the second round of the Premier Division and opening weekend of the First Division there was plenty to talk about on the show.

Stephen O’Donnell joins us to discuss Bill King’s last minute winner against Drogheda United and two fine performances in Tallaght and against the Drog’s last weekend. He chats about the management structure at the club and the role that Alan Mathews is playing within the setup.

He also chats about the impact of players who’ve arrived at the club this season as well as the goals scored this weekend by players who’ve left Richmond Park for other pastures in 2021.

Shel’s recruit Michael O’Connor talks about his side’s performance in their league opener at Eamonn Deacy Park where they took home a point despite being reduced to ten men in the first half of the game between the expected title challengers.

He discusses his last few seasons bouncing around a few clubs including Dundalk, Linfield, Waterford, Ross County before his arrival at Shels this season where he plans to take advantage of his reunion with Alan Reynolds who was his manager during his most enjoyable spell in the game at Waterford.

UCD captain Jack Keaney spoke about mixing his studies and his football career in Belfield and the difference between his life as a professional with Sligo Rovers and the student lifestyle.

He talked about the importance of having a qualification to fall back on when the football days are done and dusted eventually, especially considering the experience of his brother’s retirement from inter county gaelic games due to injury in his mid 20’s.

He talks about the professional setup at UCD, the role models who have progressed through the club to professional careers throughout the league and further afield and his own ambitions to have a long term ambitions to play and eventually coach within the sport.

Tom Murphy, Gary Shaw & Tommy Barrett

This week we’re focusing on the opening weekend of the First Division with Treaty United manager Tommy Barrett, Bray Wanderers striker Gary Shaw and Wexford keeper Tom Murphy talk about how their sides are preparing for the season ahead.

The show starts with co-hosts, Dean Zambra and Breifne Earley discusses the results of the weekend including Dean’s Longford Town side getting out of the blocks early with a 2-0 victory over Derry City. They also discuss the unlikely top three sides in a very early league table.

Treaty United manager Tommy Barrett joins to talk about the return of senior League of Ireland men’s football to Limerick and the mid-west region, the circumstances and driving forces behind the emergence of Treaty United and the expectations on and off the field for the league’s new boys.

Wexford netminder Tom Murphy, an ever present for the side last season, discusses new arrivals and the strengthening of the club in the dugout as well as within the playing squad. He discusses the significance of the new LOITV service and Dean and Tom finish the chat with a mention of their shared interest in following Peamount United’s campaign in the Women’s National League.

Finally, Bray Wanderers top marksman last season Gary Shaw is in very relaxed form ahead of the new season. He chats about the differences in the league over his career specifically the support staff with video analysis, nutrition and strength & conditioning all now common place with each of the clubs.

Gary also highlights the importance of international call ups for squad members such as Brian Maher and the international pathway this showcases for youngsters coming through the underage sides at any League of Ireland club.

Daniel Lambert, Ken Robinson & Conor Hoey

This week we focus on some of the excellent off-pitch developments raising standards across the league with Daniel Lambert, COO of Bohemians, Ken Robinson, CEO of DCU Sport and Drogheda United chairman Conor Hoey joining hosts Alan Keane and Breifne Earley to chat about their respective new partnerships over the last week.

We start with former Lilywhite Alan Keane taking a look back at the President’s Cup (0:18) between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk last Friday night where his old side secured the first silverware of the season with a penalty shoot out victory after an end to end battle in Tallaght Stadium.

Alan also gives his opinion on the coaching and managerial situation at Dundalk after the recent announcement that UEFA Pro Licence holder Shane Keegan was in the hot seat at Oriel Park. (7:07) He also discusses the similar situation at Richmond Park where Alan Mathews holds the qualification and the title of manager while Stephen O’Donnell will be the Head Coach.

Alan and Breifne take a look back at the other games played in pre-season over the last week (9:59) and preview the upcoming first round of games in the Premier Division this weekend (12:02).

Daniel Lambert of Bohemians and Ken Robinson of DCU Sport joins us (22:02) to discuss their new ground breaking 18 year arrangement which secures Bohemians long term future in the heart of their own local community.

They discuss the origins of the idea and the specifics of the deal and what it means for both the club and the university, initially purely as a facilities arrangement but as a larger relationship over the duration of the contract.

Conor Hoey, chairman of Drogheda United, joins the conversation (42:22) to discuss some of the club’s own advances on and off the pitch as they adjust to life back in the Premier Division and at their recently renamed Head in the Game Park.

Stephen Folan, John Russell & Dean Zambra

The west’s certainly awake on this week’s episode with two Galway natives on the show in the form of Finn Harps’ Stephen Folan and Sligo Rovers assistant manager John Russell joining co-hosts Dean Zambra and Breifne Earley ahead of the 2021 League of Ireland season.

Longford Town captain Dean Zambra talks through some of the pre-season action over last weekend with a focus on the buildup to the season for his own club as they return to the Premier Division after a three year stay in the second tier of the league.

He chats about Longford’s defeat to full time Galway United last weekend and the impact of players like Dean Byrne after he manufactured a late goal for De Town in their latest warm up game.

Stephen Folan joins Dean and Breifne to discuss his return from Australia after his adventure down under was shortened considerably when the league ran into issues with Covid and was cancelled. Ollie Horgan offered him the opportunity to return home to the top flight here and he’s been enjoying his time at Finn Park with Harps.

Sligo’s No. 2 John Russell sat down for a chat with Breifne to discuss the arrival of European football back to the Showgrounds after a 6 year absence of continental football in Yeat’s county. He spoke about the issues with their foreign players dealing with quarantine restrictions, some injury concerns and their improved recruitment.

Russell discusses the new arrivals of Shane Blaney, Greg Bolger and Robbie McCourt as well as the return of Romeo Parkes and the emergence of Johnny Kenny as a goal poacher through pre-season.

Jim Magilton, Adrian Carberry & Oisin Moran

Dundalk’s Sporting Director Jim Magilton, Athlone Town manager Adrian Carberry & film maker Oisin Moran join Alan Keane & Breifne Earley to discuss their pre-season preparations and Oisin’s new documentary on the history of Sligo Rovers.

Former Irish FA Elite Performance Director, Jim Magilton discusses his recent appointment at Dundalk and the main work which he has been doing since arriving at Oriel Park, the club’s ambitions to become a European club in Ireland and their big plans for their academy.

He touches on providing stability in the club, player recruitment, raising the standards on and off the pitch and the financial realities of dealing with the Covid pandemic for all clubs.

Adrian discusses the investment in Athlone, relocating the club’s training base to their own midlands venue, the intention of the club to aim higher than simply existing within the league and the recruitment of some experienced names to mount a serious push for a playoff spot at a minimum this season in what is shaping up to be a competitive league campaign.

Oisin Moran speaks to Breifne about his documentary “Shine: A Sligo Rovers Documentary”, a beautiful, informative look back at two decades of the history of the Bit O’ Red from their 1977 League title to capturing the 1994 FAI Cup with input from players, officials, staff and supporters of the club.