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Who will win the Premier League? Can Ireland qualify? Our writers' 2017 football predictions

Plus, who will get PFA Player and Young Player of the Year?

The Premier League trophy (file pic).
The Premier League trophy (file pic).
Image: Peter Byrne

Shane Costello

1. Which teams will make the Premier League top four and in what specific order?

1. Chelsea 2. Liverpool 3. Man City 4. Man United.

2. Who will be relegated and promoted in England this season?

Swansea City, Middlesbrough, Hull City.

3. Who will get PFA Player and Young Player of the Year?

Main: Philippe Coutinho (if he can reproduce his form before his injury), but on current form Diego Costa. Young: Delle Ali.

4. Name the 2017 Europa League and Champions League winners.

CL: Juventus EL: Shakhtar Donetsk.

5. Will Dundalk get four-in-a-row in the LOI, and if not, who will stop them?

At this moment in time, I would say no.

Their Europa League exploits have left the champions slightly behind their rivals in preparation for the new season.

On top of that, Stephen Kenny has significant personnel to replace, most notably Daryl Horgan, but the absence of Andy Boyle and Ronan Finn will also be keenly felt.

A strong start from Cork would put the Lilywhites under pressure from the outset.

6. Name one Irish player to watch out for in 2017 domestically and abroad respectively?

LOI: Dylan Connolly

After being released by Ipswich Town, Dylan Connolly has shown tremendous strength of character to rebuild his career with a rejuvenated Bray side back home.

The Dubliner’s electrifying pace is combined with a good skill set, and the 21-year-old could replace Horgan as the hottest property in the domestic game.

Britain: Liam Kelly

The attacker has all the attributes that would get the fans in the Aviva off their seats in the future.

Kelly is technically superb, has excellent vision and is one of those players that plays on the half-turn — already playing the next phase of the game in his head before receiving the ball.

Reading is a good club for a young player to learn their trade and the Ireland U21 international will be given opportunities to impress — he just needs to grab them with both hands.

7. Will Ireland qualify for the World Cup?

I think so. A near-perfect start to the qualifiers has increased expectations following a largely positive European Championships, with confidence gradually growing within the squad after the historic win in Austria.

To finish top of the group as fourth seeds would be an outstanding achievement, and this group of players have already proven they can produce on the big occasions, something that could not have been said since the days of Mick McCarthy’s reign.

A couple more big results and a trip to Russia will be on the horizon.

8. Which female Irish footballer are you expecting big things from in 2017?

With over a year under her belt at Arsenal, it would be great to see Katie McCabe push on with her club and on the international stage.

The attacker has wonderful ability and is at the right club to develop into a star.

After Sue Ronan’s departure, I also hope the FAI appoints a manager that can maximise the potential out of the squad.

If the team could qualify for a major tournament, the women’s game would explode in popularity in this country.

9. Which footballing storyline is worth keeping an eye on in 2017?

Shamrock Rovers will be expecting a big year and have long-term aims of dominating the league after significant investment has been pumped into the club.

There has been some smart recruitment in the close season, most notably, Darren Meenan, Ronan Finn, Paul Corry and Roberto Lopes moving to west Dublin, which should make Rovers a much more competitive outfit than last year.

Overnight success is not expected in Tallaght, but signs of improvement is needed, which means Stephen Bradley will be hoping to challenge for the title as long as possible in 2017.

A strong Shamrock Rovers side is good for the league as a whole, although Bohs fans will, no doubt, disagree.

Fintan O’Toole

Britain Soccer Premier League Chelsea's Eden Hazard. Source: Alastair Grant

1. Which teams will make the Premier League top four and in what specific order?

I’ll go for 1. Chelsea, 2. Spurs, 3. Liverpool, 4. Manchester City. But it’s pretty hazardous at this stage trying to forecast those last couple of places, Manchester United and Arsenal will be well in the mix until the end.

2. Who will be relegated and promoted in England this season?

Neither of the new Hull City or Swansea City bosses will perform a miracle, and this may finally be the season that Big Sam’s proud record ends as Crystal Palace go down. Jermaine Defoe’s goals – presuming they’re still available after the transfer window – can keep Sunderland up.

Brighton, Newcastle and Leeds to all go up.

3. Who will get PFA Player and Young Player of the Year?

Eden Hazard to scale the heights he reached two years ago and win Player of the Year with Dele Alli to be the star youngster.

4. Name the 2017 Europa League and Champions League winners.

For once we can’t go for Sevilla for win the Europa League. So provided Mourinho stays interested in it, Manchester United can celebrate next May.

And Barcelona to win back the Champions League courtesy of the dazzling play by Messi, Neymar and Suarez.

5. Will Dundalk get four-in-a-row in the LOI, and if not, who will stop them?

Cork City to finally bring Dundalk’s winning run to a halt.

6. Name one Irish player to watch out for in 2017 domestically and abroad respectively?

At home worth seeing if Sean Maguire can go on another goal-scoring blitz for Cork City and in England it’ll be interesting what impact Daryl Horgan can have with Preston North End.

7. Will Ireland qualify for the World Cup?

Yes, particularly if they avoid defeat in their next two home games.

8. Which female Irish footballer are you expecting big things from in 2017?

Cavan’s Leanne Kiernan to build on a stellar 2016 that finished in style with that hat-trick in the Women’s FAI Cup final.

9. Which footballing storyline is worth keeping an eye on in 2017?

Conte v Poch v Klopp v Pep v Jose v Arsene in England. The pressure will heap upon the two managers don’t manage to reach the elite of European football next season.

Paul Fennessy

Barnsley v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship - Oakwell Barnsley's Conor Hourihane. Source: Nigel French

1. Which teams will make the Premier League top four and in what specific order?

1. Chelsea 2. Man United 3. Man City 4. Liverpool

It’s hard to see Chelsea letting their lead slip despite the recent problems with Costa and their loss the other week to Spurs. Antonio Conte’s side are like a well-drilled machine, so it’s hard to imagine them suddenly faltering or easily giving up the substantial advantage they currently hold over their rivals.

Man United’s improved form has me convinced they’ll ultimately earn a top-four spot, while of the other teams, Tottenham and Arsenal may well miss out due to City and Liverpool’s slightly superior squads.

2. Who will be relegated and promoted in England this season?

Newcastle and Brighton look near-certainties to go up this season, while I suspect Leeds could join them given the way they are playing currently.

I can’t see too much change between now and the end of the season in terms of the relegation spots — Sunderland, Hull and Swansea simply aren’t good enough and barring some astute signings between now and the end of the window, it’s hard to see them surviving.

3. Who will get PFA Player and Young Player of the Year?

With 10 goals already, it’s hard to look past Dele Alli for the Young Player of the Year award. And provided he can get over his current problems, the prolific Diego Costa will claim the main gong.

4. Name the 2017 Europa League and Champions League winners.

Man United have arguably the most talented squad of all the teams left in the Europa League, so provided they take it seriously, there’s no reason why they can’t win it.

Real Madrid are looking in ominously good form right now, so they could well become the first team to retain the Champions League.

5. Will Dundalk get four-in-a-row in the LOI, and if not, who will stop them?

Dundalk have kept enough important players to suggest they will still rightly consider themselves favourites this season. Cork City and Shamrock Rovers could both well challenge them, however. Ronan Finn is a big signing for the latter.

6. Name one Irish player to watch out for in 2017 domestically and one abroad?

Domestically – Sean Maguire was arguably the second-best player in the 2016 season after Daryl Horgan. Another prolific campaign could see him follow the Galway native to England.

Abroad – Conor Hourihane is one player to watch carefully. He has stepped up from League One to Championship level with aplomb, and he may find himself in the Premier League sooner rather than later having come back from the disappointment of being let go by Sunderland as a youngster.

7. Will Ireland qualify for the World Cup?

A lot will depend on whether the team can keep their top players fit and also, if Gareth Bale is available for Wales in March. I certainly think Martin O’Neill’s side are good enough to reach Russia and at the very least, they are on a par with every other team in contention in the group.

8. Which female Irish footballer are you expecting big things from in 2017?

Leanne Kiernan is the obvious response, but the recently announced WNL Player of the Year Noelle Murray is a really classy Wes Hoolahan-esque player and she has just completed a move to Glasgow City.

9. Which footballing storyline is worth keeping an eye on in 2017?

The Man City anti-doping violation story feels like only the tip of the iceberg. It seems naive to think football doesn’t have problems in this regard, though whether the authorities have the appetite to rigorously pursue this matter remains to be seen.

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