League of Ireland Premier Division

The League of Ireland Premier Division (Irish: Príomhroinn Sraith na hÉireann), also known as the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, is the top level division in both the League of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland football league system. The division was formed in 1985 following a reorganisation of the League of Ireland. St. Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians are the only current League of Ireland clubs never to have been relegated from the Premier Division. Since 2003 the Premier Division has operated as a summer league.

League of Ireland Premier Division
League of Ireland logo.png
CountryRepublic of Ireland
Other club(s) fromNorthern Ireland
ConfederationUEFA (Europe)
Number of teams10
Level on pyramid1
Relegation toLeague of Ireland First Division
Domestic cup(s)FAI Cup
President's Cup
League cup(s)League of Ireland Cup
International cup(s)UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
UEFA Europa Conference League
Most championshipsDundalk (8)
TV partnersRTÉ2 (ROI)
Eir Sport (ROI)
Premier Sports (UK)
FreeSports (UK)[1][2]



The inaugural members of the Premier Division included the League of Ireland's traditional top four clubs – Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne, Bohemians and Dundalk plus eight other clubs. Shamrock Rovers were the inaugural champions and then retained the title in 1986–87. This saw Rovers complete a four in a row of league titles. Dundalk were champions in 1987–88 and Derry City achieved a treble in 1988–89 by also winning the League of Ireland Cup and the FAI Cup.[3][4][5][6]


The 1990s saw the re-emergence of St Patrick's Athletic following years of obscurity. During the decade St Pat's won four titles. Brian Kerr guided the club to success in 1989–90 and 1995–96 before Pat Dolan and Liam Buckley added further titles in 1997–98 and 1998–99.[3][4] The 1992–93 season saw Cork City win their first title in dramatic circumstances after a series of three-way play-offs that also involved Bohemians and Shelbourne.[7][8]


The turn of the century saw Shelbourne win the first of five titles in seven years. Dermot Keely guided Shelbourne to the title in 1999–2000 and 2001–02. Shelbourne won the title in controversial circumstances in 2001–02. They were only declared champions after St Patrick's Athletic were deducted 15 points for fielding Charles Livingstone Mbabazi while he was ineligible.[3][4][9]

The league decided to become a summer league in 2003. Pat Fenlon added further titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Fenlon had also been a prominent member of the Shelbourne playing squads in 1999–2000 and 2001–02. As a manager Fenlon would also guide Bohemians to title successes in 2008 and 2009. Cork City denied Shelbourne a third league title in a row when they claimed their second title in 2005, defeating fellow challengers Derry City in a last game decider at Turners Cross.[10]

During the second half of the decade a number of Premier Division clubs suffered financial difficulties. During the 2005 season Shamrock Rovers entered into examinership and it was revealed that the club had debts of nearly €3 million. It was also discovered that Rovers were not paying PAYE and PRSI taxes. As a result of these financial irregularities, Rovers were deducted eight points. This ultimately resulted in the club being relegated to the First Division after they lost the relegation/promotion playoff to Dublin City. This was the first time Rovers' senior team had dropped out of the top level of the Republic of Ireland football league system since the club had joined the League of Ireland in 1922–23.[11][12] During the 2006 season the Revenue Commissioners took High Court action and threatened to have Shelbourne wound up after the club failed to pay more than €104,000 in outstanding taxes.[13][14] Shelbourne also struggled to pay its players during the season. Despite winning the title Shelbourne were subsequently demoted to the First Division due to their financial difficulties. Midway through the season Dublin City also went out of business and withdrew from the league, unable to complete the season.[15] During the 2008 season both Cork City and Drogheda United were deducted ten points after going into administration.[16][17][18] Following the conclusion of the 2009 season both Derry City and Cork City were expelled from the League of Ireland. Derry City were accused of making extra payments to players using unofficial secondary contracts. This was against league rules which placed limits on the amount clubs could spend on players' wages. Cork City had been in serious financial difficulties for several seasons and its holding company was eventually wound up by the High Court. However both clubs were effectively reformed and were subsequently allowed to join the 2010 First Division.[19][20][21][22][23]


The 2010s have been one of contrasting fortunes for Premier Division clubs. Under Michael O'Neill, Shamrock Rovers finished as Premier Division champions in 2010 and 2011. In 2011 Rovers also created history when they became the first team in League of Ireland history to qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Europa League.[24] In 2012 Sligo Rovers won their first Premier Division title and their first top level title in thirty five years.[25][26] St. Patrick's Athletic won their fifth Premier Division in 2013.[27] Under Stephen Kenny, Dundalk emulated Shamrock Rovers, winning the title in 2014 and 2015 titles before qualifying for the group stages of the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League.

In contrast three Premier Division clubs – Sporting Fingal, Galway United and Monaghan United – all withdrew from the League of Ireland. Sporting Fingal also went out of business completely.[23][28][29]


The top team in the Premier Division currently qualifies for the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round. The second-placed and third placed-teams and winners of the FAI Cup qualify for the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round. Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk have both qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Europa League. In 2011, Rovers became the first team in League of Ireland history to reach the group stages and Dundalk repeated the feat in 2016. In 2018, UEFA changed the structure of qualification for the Champions League; giving an extra four automatic qualification spots to the top four leagues in Europe.[30] To compensate for that change, an extra round was added to the qualifying stages of the Champions League and the Europa League which made qualification more difficult for League of Ireland clubs. In 2021, the league will have its Europa League qualifying places revoked and replaced by Europa Conference League places as part of UEFA's restructuring of European football.[31]

The League of Ireland Premier Division's UEFA coefficient accumulates to a total value of 5.125 as of September 2013. Between 1998 and 2010, the league's place on the coefficient table rose 15 places, the biggest climb of any league in Europe. Its position of 29th in 2010 was also its highest since 1986. Since June 2010, the league's ranking has declined and it stood at 43rd place at the end of the 2013/2014 season,[32] a drop of 14 places since 2010 and the league's worst ranking since 1998. In the 2000s, the Premier Division's coefficient vastly improved relative to the late 1990s, but at a cost.[33] The introduction of full-time professional football by a number of clubs and the league's decision to become a summer league in 2003, improved the performance of Premier Division clubs in Europe. Increased fitness levels resulted from both, while full-time professionalism retained Irish players within the league, attracted foreign players to the league and generally improved the standard of football. At least one League of Ireland club has progressed to the next round of a European competition in every season from 2003 to 2014.

However, the costs associated with professional football and the pursuit of European success have been blamed for the financial difficulties suffered by Premier Division clubs.[34] This period of improvement came to an end in 2010 with the league's ranking dropping. From 29th in 2010, it dropped to 31st in 2011, 33rd in 2012, 36th in 2013 and 43rd for the 2014 rankings. The league recovered to 40th for the 2015 rankings and finished 41st in the 2016 rankings.

Promotion and relegationEdit

A promotion and relegation system has existed between the Premier Division and the League of Ireland First Division since 1985–86. In 1992–93 a promotion/relegation play-off was also introduced.[35][36]. The bottom team in the Premier Division is relegated, and the second-from-bottom plays the second-from-top of the First Division for the final spot in the Premier Division.[37]

In 2008 Cobh Ramblers were relegated directly from the Premier Division to the 2009 A Championship after they failed to obtain a First Division license.[19] In 2017, to even up the numbers of clubs in the Premier Division and First Division to 10 teams each, the bottom three Premier League teams were relegated and only the First Division champion were promoted.[38]

2020 clubsEdit

Locations of Dublin Premier Division teams
Team Home city/suburb Stadium Capacity
Bohemians Phibsborough Dalymount Park 3,400
Cork City Cork Turners Cross 6,900
Derry City Derry Brandywell 3,700
Dundalk Dundalk Oriel Park 4,500
Finn Harps Ballybofey Finn Park 4,500
St Patrick's Athletic Inchicore Richmond Park 5,350
Shamrock Rovers Tallaght Tallaght Stadium 8,000
Shelbourne Dublin Tolka Park 3,600
Sligo Rovers Sligo The Showgrounds 4,000
Waterford Waterford RSC 5,500

List of winners by seasonEdit

Season Champions Runners-up Third Place
1985–86 Shamrock Rovers Galway United Dundalk
1986–87 Shamrock Rovers Dundalk Bohemians
1987–88 Dundalk St Patrick's Athletic Bohemians
1988–89 Derry City Dundalk Limerick City
1989–90 St Patrick's Athletic Derry City Dundalk
1990–91 Dundalk Cork City St Patrick's Athletic
1991–92 Shelbourne Derry City Cork City
1992–93 Cork City Bohemians Shelbourne
1993–94 Shamrock Rovers Cork City Galway United
1994–95 Dundalk Derry City Shelbourne
1995–96 St Patrick's Athletic Bohemians Sligo Rovers
1996–97 Derry City Bohemians Shelbourne
1997–98 St Patrick's Athletic Shelbourne Cork City
1998–99 St Patrick's Athletic Cork City Shelbourne
1999–00 Shelbourne Cork City Bohemians
2000–01 Bohemians Shelbourne Cork City
2001–02 Shelbourne Shamrock Rovers St Patrick's Athletic
2002–03 Bohemians Shelbourne Shamrock Rovers
2003 Shelbourne Bohemians Cork City
2004 Shelbourne Cork City Bohemians
2005 Cork City Derry City Shelbourne
2006 Shelbourne Derry City Drogheda United
2007 Drogheda United St Patrick's Athletic Bohemians
2008 Bohemians St Patrick's Athletic Derry City
2009 Bohemians Shamrock Rovers Cork City
2010 Shamrock Rovers Bohemians Sligo Rovers
2011 Shamrock Rovers Sligo Rovers Derry City
2012 Sligo Rovers Drogheda United St Patrick's Athletic
2013 St Patrick's Athletic Dundalk Sligo Rovers
2014 Dundalk Cork City St Patrick's Athletic
2015 Dundalk Cork City Shamrock Rovers
2016 Dundalk Cork City Derry City
2017 Cork City Dundalk Shamrock Rovers
2018 Dundalk Cork City Shamrock Rovers
2019 Dundalk Shamrock Rovers Bohemians


List of winners by clubEdit

Club Titles Seasons
Dundalk 8 1987–88, 1990–91, 1994–95, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019
Shelbourne 6 1991–92, 1999–00, 2001–02, 2003, 2004, 2006
St Patrick's Athletic 5 1989–90, 1995–96, 1997–98, 1998–99, 2013
Shamrock Rovers 5 1985–86, 1986–87, 1993–94, 2010, 2011
Bohemians 4 2000–01, 2002–03, 2008, 2009
Cork City 3 1992–93, 2005, 2017
Derry City 2 1988–89, 1996–97
Sligo Rovers 1 2012
Drogheda United 1 2007



List of wins by managerEdit

The joint most successful manager in the League of Ireland Premier Division era is Stephen Kenny, having won the title on five occasions, once with Bohemians and four times with Dundalk.
Along with Kenny, Pat Fenlon is the joint most successful manager in the League of Ireland Premier Division era with five titles to his name – three with Shelbourne and twice with Bohemians.
Club Titles Seasons
  Stephen Kenny 5 2002–03, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018
  Pat Fenlon 5 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009
  Dermot Keely 4 1986–87, 1994–95, 1999–00, 2001-02
  Jim McLaughlin 3 1985–86, 1988–89, 1991–92
  Liam Buckley 2 1998–99, 2013
  Michael O'Neill 2 2010, 2011
  Brian Kerr 2 1989–90, 1995–96
  Turlough O'Connor 2 1987–88, 1990–91
  Pat Dolan 1 1997–98
  Vinny Perth 1 2019
  John Caulfield 1 2017
  Ian Baraclough 1 2012
  Paul Doolin 1 2007
  Damien Richardson 1 2005
  Roddy Collins 1 2000–01
  Felix Healy 1 1996–97
  Ray Treacy 1 1993–94
  Noel O'Mahony 1 1992–93

Current managersEdit

The Premier Division's longest current reigning manager is Ollie Horgan, who has remained in his position at Finn Harps since March 2014.

Name Club Appointed
  Ollie Horgan Finn Harps 1 March 2014
  Keith Long Bohemians 30 October 2014
  Stephen Bradley Shamrock Rovers 1 November 2016
  John Sheridan Waterford 2 July 2020
  Liam Buckley Sligo Rovers 6 October 2018
  Ian Morris Shelbourne 6 November 2018
  Declan Devine Derry City 12 November 2018
  Filippo Giovagnoli Dundalk 26 August 2020
  Neale Fenn Cork City 26 August 2019
  Stephen O'Donnell St Patrick's Athletic 31 August 2019

Top scorersEdit

Season Player Club Goals
1985–86   Tommy Gaynor Limerick 15
1986–87   Mick Byrne Shamrock Rovers 12
1987–88   Jonathan Speak Derry City 24
1988–89   Billy Hamilton Limerick 21
1989–90   Mark Ennis St. Patrick's Athletic 19
1990–91   Peter Hanrahan Dundalk 18
1991–92   John Caulfield Cork City 16
1992–93   Pat Morley Cork City 20
1993–94   Stephen Geoghegan Shamrock Rovers 23
1994–95   John Caulfield Cork City 16
1995–96   Stephen Geoghegan Shelbourne 19
1996–97   Tony Cousins Shamrock Rovers 16
  Stephen Geoghegan Shelbourne
1997–98   Stephen Geoghegan Shelbourne 17
1998–99   Trevor Molloy St. Patrick's Athletic 15
1999–00   Pat Morley Cork City 20
2000–01   Glen Crowe Bohemians 25
2001–02   Glen Crowe Bohemians 21
2002–03   Glen Crowe Bohemians 18
2003   Jason Byrne Shelbourne 21
2004   Jason Byrne Shelbourne 25
2005   Jason Byrne Shelbourne 22
2006   Jason Byrne Shelbourne 15
2007   David Mooney Longford Town 19
2008   David Mooney Longford Town 15
  Mark Farren Derry City
  Mark Quigley St Patrick's Athletic
2009   Gary Twigg Shamrock Rovers 24
2010   Gary Twigg Shamrock Rovers 20
2011   Éamon Zayed Derry City 22
2012   Gary Twigg Shamrock Rovers 22
2013   Rory Patterson Derry City 18
2014   Christy Fagan St Patrick's Athletic 20
  Patrick Hoban Dundalk
2015   Richie Towell Dundalk 25
2016   Sean Maguire Cork City 18
2017   Sean Maguire Cork City 20
2018   Patrick Hoban Dundalk 29
2019   Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe Derry City 14


Player of the YearEdit

Year Player Club
2019   Jack Byrne Shamrock Rovers
2018   Michael Duffy Dundalk
2017   Sean Maguire Cork City
2016   Daryl Horgan Dundalk
2015   Richie Towell Dundalk
2014   Christy Fagan St Patrick's Athletic
2013   Killian Brennan St Patrick's Athletic
2012   Mark Quigley Sligo Rovers
2011   Éamon Zayed Derry City
2010   Richie Ryan Sligo Rovers
2009   Gary Twigg Shamrock Rovers
2008   Keith Fahey St. Patrick's Athletic
2007   Brian Shelley Drogheda United
2006   Joseph N'Do Shelbourne
2005   Mark Farren Derry City
2004   Jason Byrne Shelbourne
2003   Jason Byrne Shelbourne
2003   Glen Crowe Bohemians
2002   Owen Heary Shelbourne
2001   Glen Crowe Bohemians
2000   Pat Fenlon Shelbourne
1999   Paul Osam St. Patrick's Athletic
1998   Pat Scully Shelbourne
1997   Peter Hutton Derry City
1996   Eddie Gormley St. Patrick's Athletic
1995   Liam Coyle Derry City
1994   Stephen Geoghegan Shamrock Rovers
1993   Donal O'Brien Derry City
1992   Pat Fenlon Bohemians
1991   Pat Morley Cork City
1990   Mark Ennis St. Patrick's Athletic
1989   Paul Doolin Derry City
1988   Paddy Dillon St. Patrick's Athletic
1987   Mick Byrne Shamrock Rovers
1986   Paul Doolin Shamrock Rovers


The trophy

The current League of Ireland trophy was unveiled on 31 October 2007 by the Football Association of Ireland. It stands at 91 cm (36 inches) tall with a circumference of 83 cm (33 inches). It is a Sterling Silver trophy consisting of silver and a mass of other metals including copper. The design of the trophy consists of a silver football at the top, which is encompassed by the cup itself. Drogheda United were the first team to receive the newly created trophy on 2 November 2007.


The Premier Division has been sponsored since the early 1990s. The sponsor has been able to determine the league's sponsorship name. There have been three sponsors since the league's formation.

  • 1990's: Bord Gáis (Bord Gáis League Premier Division)
  • 2000–2008: Eircom (Eircom League Premier Division)
  • 2010–present: SSE Airtricity (Airtricity League Premier Division)

The league had no title sponsor in 2009, but had a number of secondary sponsors including Newstalk and Electronic Arts. As well as sponsorship for the league itself, the Premier Division has a number of official partners and suppliers. The official ball supplier for the league is Umbro. The official drink for the league is Lucozade. The official radio and newspaper partners are Newstalk and Irish Daily Star.

See alsoEdit


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  2. ^ "FreeSports Football". FreeSports. 25 August 2017. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Graham, Alex. Football in the Republic of Ireland a Statistical Record 1921–2005. Soccer Books Limited. ISBN 1-86223-135-4.
  4. ^ a b c d e "(Republic of) Ireland League Tables". www.rsssf.com. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Ireland - List of League Cup Finals". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
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  14. ^ "Shelbourne clear tax debt". www.rte.ie. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
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  18. ^ Emmet Malone (3 December 2008). "Drogheda United officials hold public meeting tonight in effort to save club". www.irishtimes.com. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
  19. ^ a b "Ireland 2009". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  20. ^ "Derry thrown out of League of Ireland". www.rte.ie. 7 November 2009. Archived from the original on 9 November 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  21. ^ "Derry City invited back to league". news.bbc.co.uk. 12 November 2009.
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  25. ^ "Sligo Rovers celebrate first title in 35 years". thejournal.ie. 14 October 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  26. ^ "Title win sends Sligo wild". www.irishexaminer.com. 14 October 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Super St Patrick's Athletic jumping for joy with league title". www.independent.ie. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  28. ^ "Ireland 2011". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  29. ^ "Ireland 2012". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  30. ^ "Europe's top four leagues to get four guaranteed Champions League spots". The42.ie. 26 August 2016.
  31. ^ Barry Glendenning (25 September 2019). "Uefa's Europa Conference League likely only to keep big fish happy". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  32. ^ UEFA country ranking, xs4all.nl, accessed 13 July 2013
  33. ^ Daniel McDonnell (22 June 2009). "Poisoned chalice or holy grail?". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
  34. ^ "Mahon slams rivals on Euro gambles". www.independent.ie. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
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  36. ^ "What Happens (To) Teams That Enter The League Of Ireland First Division?". www.balls.ie. 20 February 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  37. ^ https://www.the42.ie/sse-airtricity-league-format-2018-campaign-3726265-Nov2017/
  38. ^ http://www.irishmirror.ie/sport/soccer/soccer-news/2017-league-ireland-fixtures-champions-9500212
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External linksEdit