2023 Season Review: Drogheda United
Team: Drogheda United
Head Coach: Kevin Doherty
Top Scorer: Freddie Draper (eight goals)
Stadium: Weavers Park
Highest Attendance: 2,284 v Shamrock Rovers (7 July 2023)
Lowest Attendance: 1,451 v Derry City (5 May 2023)
Star Player: Dayle Rooney
There were several players critical to Drogheda United’s impressive survival that could have received this title. None are more deserving though than 25-year-old winger Dayle Rooney who this week has made the move to Bohemians for the 2024 season.
The former First Division winner with Shelbourne has consistently shown how dangerous he can be for the Boynesiders, netting five times including a goal of the season contender in Richmond Park.
Going under the radar of the extratime.com team with a lot more focus placed on Darragh Markey, another close contender, at the start of the season. Rooney played 2,903 minutes across 33 appearances for United in 2023.
One of the most creative players in the Drogheda setup, always finding ways to cut inside for a cross with his right foot that rarely missed the mark, proven by the eight assists he gathered this season.
Best Young Player: Andrew Wogan
Unlike the Star Player accolade, there was only going to be one player getting best young player. Following Kevin Doherty’s decision to bench shot stopper Colin McCabe, 17-year-old Andrew Wogan got the call and has impressed everyone at the club making 20 competitive appearances during the season.
Despite a 3-2 defeat in Tolka Park in his first start, Wogan displayed many instances of what Drogheda fans were to expect from the teenager for the rest of the season. He signed his first professional contract on 12 July, a month after his first league start.
Bravery when coming for crosses, incredible reflexes and ability to get down quickly to make important saves. All of which has earned the Ardee native four international starts in Tom Mohan’s MU19 Ireland squad.
Wogan kept four clean sheets across all competitions including home ties against champions Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City. In many instances, he was unfortunate to not to make that tally a lot higher.
Wogan remains as one of only two players still under contract at Weavers Park ahead of the new season, and the Boynesiders will look to hold onto the young keeper throughout his development.
Best New Signing: Conor Keeley
Another tough decision but as players departed and the tough fixtures piled up, Conor Keeley stepped up and delivered top level performances every week.
Drogheda United fans were happy when the club announced they had acquired the former Cabinteely centre-back from Antrim outfit, Ballymena United where Keeley enjoyed two full seasons in the NIFL Premiership.
Keeley would become a fan favourite in Louth, playing in all but two matches. In the games his missed he first served a one game suspension in a match which Drogheda would end up losing 5-0 away to Shamrock Rovers, their biggest loss of the year.
The other was the final Louth Derby in Oriel Park when Keeley picked up an injury in the warm-up.
The results show how pivotal to Drogheda’s backline he has been but has the stats to back up this claim. His 162 successful clearances give him the most of any player in the Premier League Division, over Bohemians’ Kacper Radkowski and Shamrock Rovers Roberto Lopes.
Such performances have garnered the attention of clubs in the UK with numerous rumours of Hamilton Academical, Motherwell and Notts County monitoring the centre-back.
United will hope to retain his services for 2024, and the new project on the horizon may influence his decision.
What we expected they would do:
The extratime.com team predicted that the Boynesiders would have the confidence to stay up whether it was through the playoffs or by league position.
What they actually did:
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
Kevin Doherty’s men took everyone by surprise this year with a seventh place finish in the Premier Division.
A promising start to the season with draws away to Shelbourne and at home to nine-man Shamrock Rovers, followed by a 1-0 win at home to Sligo Rovers found United in third position and flying high early in the campaign.
Losing1-0 in the first home Louth Derby of the season did not shake their confidence as they then drew in Cork before a huge away win in the Brandywell against Derry City.
Home defeats to Bohs and Pat’s saw Drogheda slip to where the predictions thought they would be. They would next taste victory on their first trip of the season to Tallaght Stadium where goals from Freddie Draper and sublime team move finished off by Dayle Rooney, saw United leave the home of the champions with a 2-1 win.
Drogheda would ultimately fail to get a single point in any of the four Louth Derbies this year, a small downside to a league campaign of many positives for the part-time club.
Drogheda’s results would waver for the remainder of the season, but the team delivered points on a regular basis, in the important fixtures, allowing them to climb up to and maintain their seventh position.
They reached the quarterfinals which was a step further than 2022 but would ultimately fall 3-1 at home to eventual runners-up Bohemians.
What they need to improve on for next year:
With a new chapter in Drogheda United’s story starting to take shape, a lot of eyes will be on the Louth club to see how they operate going forward. The FAI gave the green light for American Sports Firm ‘Trivela Group’ to obtain 100 percent ownership of Drogheda United.
Talks of turning into a full-time club is not an immediate concern of Trivela, looking to improve infrastructure and stadium facilities in the next year. As a result, Kevin Doherty’s men will have to replicate the heroics of the 2023 season. They have confirmed Doherty will have a more competitive budget going forward, and that the manager will have a large say in who signs for the club.
United have maintained a strong, fortified back four, despite their defence changing every year with players moving on after the end of their one-year contract. However, going forward, there has been a lack of goals from Drogheda, scoring 40 this year and just 34 last season.
Freddie Draper, on loan from Lincoln, scored eight goals in 21 games, and remained as top scorer for Drogheda United, despite leaving in June to return to England. Adam Foley would be the main source of inspiration in front of goal, scoring five after Draper’s departure. A centre forward is certainly needed to score consistently for the Boynesiders.
Andrew Wogan has been stellar in goal in his first season, but with Colin McCabe being released by the club, and Fiachra Pagel’s loan from Forest Green Rovers ending midway through the season, goalkeeping reinforcements should be a focal point for Drogheda.
As of November 15th, the only resigning for Drogheda has been manager Kevin Doherty, who was given his first full-time managerial job by Trivela earlier in November.
If United are to maintain Premier Division status next season, a lot of key players such as Conor Keeley, Darragh Markey and the aforementioned Adam Foley need to be tied down before the clubs higher up the table come knocking for them.
With Dayle Rooney’s transfer to Bohemians completed and Michael Leddy’s loan from Shamrock Rovers coming to a close, there are no other confirmed departures from the club yet buy may be set to change.