The SSE Airtricity League is well underway and patterns are already unfolding. Fixture congestion is a widespread grievance, Cork City and Dundalk look set to challenge for the title and Bray Wanderers require monumental improvement if they are to avoid relegation.
A key feature of this year's season looks set to be the depth of squads, particularly given the Friday/Monday scheduling facing clubs this year. At Dundalk, Stephen Kenny has consistently been forced to rebuild his squad because of key players moving abroad, most recently with Patrick McEleney's move to Oldham, David McMillian's move to St. Johnstone and Niclas Vemmelund's departure. Cork faced a similar task with the loss of Sean Maguire.
In their absence, new players have blossomed both at the top and across the league. There are several players who've demonstrated the technical ability to warrant moves abroad and follow in the footsteps of Maguire, Daryl Horgan, James McClean or Wes Hoolahan.
A key player in Derry City's centre as Kenny Shiels' men got off to a strong opening run of games at the newly developed Brandywell. The former Spurs youngster has a wide array of talents; his passing range is outstanding and he has already scored nine goals this season including a double this week on a dire Markets Field pitch.
— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) May 1, 2018
The talk of the league this season. Doing his leaving cert this year but Bolger has been a revelation at Shamrocks Rovers, with manager Stephen Bradley heaping praise on the teen after their recent victory over Cork City.
The Ireland under-21 international was brilliant out west last season despite Galway's relegation and has been in fine form alongside brother Ronan at Derry. Hale openly admitted he is eyeing a return to England having been at Aston Villa previously. Just look at that pass on 19 seconds in the video above.
A joy out wide for Dundalk this season. Duffy is willing to take a full-back on and deliver the ball across or cut inside and unleash an effort on goal and as a result, has already amassed seven goals and eight assists. The former Celtic man is still only 23.
A crying shame that last year's PFAI Young Player of the Year is out for the rest of the season due to injured knee ligaments. The left-sided player has been superb for Rovers since his return from Middlesborough and hopefully will bounce back from this knock to star for the club once again.
Watts is a neighbour of Bohs manager Keith Long and was signed on loan from Leicester City. The centre mid was superb in the recent Dublin derby win over Rovers. His control and footwork regularly leave his opponents flat-footed, he can pick a pass and grab a goal too. Watts is at the right club for this stage of his development; Bohemians play superb football and have a positive energy around the club given the work being done off the field.
One of the league's best players is currently plying his trade out wide for Cork. John Caulfield anointed him the most talented player in the league, to which Sadlier replied that he thrived on pressure. The tied top scorer this season for City along with Cummins.
— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) April 2, 2018
Honourable mention: Graham Burke (Shamrock Rovers) Daniel Cleary (Dundalk) Darragh Leahy (Bohemians) Aodh Dervin (Longford Town) Georgie Kelly (UCD, although reports suggest he is set to sign for Dundalk)