Step up: former Shamrock Rovers player Joseph Ndo is looking to make a mark with Bohemians

Here's something the more radical among you probably won't like to admit. But, to the delight of malevolent marketing departments everywhere, the title 'Eircom League' did some job in enforcing brand association. To the extent referring to our national competition as the League of Ireland again takes a little bit of a mental double-take.

The hope is though, that to go with a much more traditional, less-corporate name, we get a much purer identity – one that finally puts its football ahead of its finances. Not that all those on the football side want complete change. Take Joseph Ndo, who spent Bohemians' launch last week talking of clean sweeps rather than clean slates.

"I just hope that this season at Bohs, it will be the best team Bohs ever had… we can win everything. I know last season they won the double, I think this season will be something else."

Some hysterical claims when placed in the context of history. The only time the treble of league, cup and league cup has ever been achieved was 20 years ago by Derry City, and that's fitting as it's probably their challenge Ndo should look to defying before the past's. Because, despite his impish presence, the 2009 title looks set to come down to whether Bohemians' doughty defence can keep out more than Derry's exhilarating attack can score. Should Mark Farren, Sam Morrow and Liam Kearney behind them start with any kind of strut – and it's quite possible given Derry begin next Friday at home to a rushed Drogheda regrouping – then it's a pace that could not only be difficult to match but bring a first title to the Brandywell in 12 years.

Another precedent against Bohemians is that the title itself hasn't been retained in five years and that masterstroke has only been managed five times in the last 35 – with three of those as part of Shamrock Rovers' four-in-a-row in the '80s – lending the League of Ireland an annual openness to match the Champions League. That the title hasn't been retained recently however is down to more deep-rooted problems than purely competitiveness or football and Bohs have – so far at least – avoided the problems of Shelbourne, Cork City and Drogheda United.

Not that they've been completely unaffected of course. It's been the bane of the league that previews like this so often end up reading as if they should be on the business pages and close-season cut-backs mean that Bohemians have to defend their title with a diminished squad numbers-wise. It's that, more than anything, which will mitigate against any treble bid but could well be a bonus in the league itself. Since Pat Fenlon has kept the core of his team together, their experience will be invaluable as all teams' legs are extended.

Fatigue and its effects however – much more than money this year – should perhaps be the main worry ahead of the new season. Increasing quality has been the league's main plus point amid all the problems over the past few years but it's hard to see that being kept constant in a climate of stretched squads and, most of all, trimmed training hours. At the very least, similar financial problems in the English Championship and down have meant, Keith Fahey aside, we haven't seen the expected exodus of the league's more elevated players. Rather, much more movement within and it's that which creates a very interesting mid-tier that renders any predictions of places three to eight in the Premier Division rather troublesome.

With it, too, come some striking sub-plots. Rovers return to a home and high expectations and the question is how decorated it will become under a dynamic young manager in Michael O'Neill. Paul Doolin will attempt to revitalise Cork City while Alan Cawley must do the same to St Patrick's Athletic's midfield with Fahey departed. The most crackling venue however could well be Oriel Park with Dundalk expectations high after signings like Liam Burns, emotions set to run higher with the input of both George O'Callaghan and Michael Collins and enmity set to reach record levels in a potentially rancorous derby with Drogheda, as the recent Jim Malone trophy proved.

Drogheda's defiance barely needs another mention and within it comes another encouraging episode as Robbie Martin returns from career-threatening injury. Despite their slipshod preparation, Alan Matthews' canniness should ensure they finish ahead of stripped-down Bray and Galway. Coming up it's hard to see past Sporting Fingal with signings like Eamon Zayed.

A new name on the First Division then. And to go with a new personality for the Premier Division, it'll be up to Derry City to stop Bohemians putting the same one on the top trophy.

Premier Division prediction

1 Bohemians

2 Derry City

3 St Patrick's Athletic

4 Shamrock Rovers

5 Sligo Rovers

6 Cork City

7 Dundalk

8 Drogheda United

9 Bray Wanderers

10 Galway United

First Division champions

Sporting Fingal

See Back stage, page 16