# Mystic meg
Sadlier's time to shine with Cork and your ridiculously early 2018 League of Ireland predictions
We peer into the crystal ball and come up with three things that are likely to happen in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

 1. Kieran Sadlier to become key for Cork City 

HE MAY ONLY be at the club a matter of months, but Kieran Sadlier has already got his hands on plenty of silverware as part of the double-winning team.

A summer arrival from Sligo Rovers, the talented attacker showed glimpses of what he is capable of for the Leesiders but probably found himself on the bench more regularly than he would have liked.

It was as a substitute that the 23-year-old came on in the FAI Cup final against Dundalk. When the game went to a penalty shootout, Sadlier put up his hand to take the fifth spot-kick and coolly dispatched the winner past Gary Rodgers.

Kieran Sadlier celebrates scoring the winning penalty Oisin Keniry / INPHO Sadiler scored the winning penalty in the FAI Cup final. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Now he has had time to settle in and with a full pre-season under his belt, the West Ham academy product should step up to become a key player for John Caulfield’s men in 2018.

The fact that Stephen Dooley has opted to return to Coleraine won’t do his chances of securing a regular starting berth any harm and Sadlier should fill the void more than adequately. If he keeps his head down and avoids serious injury setbacks, Sadlier has the potential to become the league’s outstanding player over the next couple of years.

2. Ronan Murray to be top scorer

Despite Galway United’s relegation to the First Division, Ronan Murray emerged from last season with an enhanced reputation.

The Mayo man spent nine years in English football with Ipswich Town and Notts County before returning to Ireland to join the Tribesmen last December. And although he was playing in a struggling side, the striker managed a return of 13 league goals in his first season in the SSE Airtricity League.

Ronan Murray misses a penalty Bryan Keane / INPHO Murray has left Galway for Dundalk. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Those performances earned him a place in the PFAI Premier Division Team of the Year and a close-season move to Dundalk. The Lilywhites, runners-up to Cork City, were the league’s top scorers with 72 goals in 2017 — which is 27 more than the tally Galway managed.

It’s far from a foregone conclusion but Murray appears to have a golden opportunity to improve his return significantly. With Sean Maguire long gone and David McMillan off to Scotland, the 26-year-old will be among the small group of players gunning to be the league’s top scorer.

3. Waterford to challenge for Europe

It’s 10 years since Waterford last played in the top flight of Irish football, but 2018 will see them make a long-awaited return.

Under Alan Reynolds, the Blues were head and shoulders above the rest — clinching the First Division in September and ending the season with an eight-point advantage on runners-up Cobh Ramblers, who are resigned to another campaign in the second tier due to the league restructure.

Waterford celebrate winning The SSE Airtricity League First Division Ryan Byrne / INPHO The Waterford players celebrate winning the First Division. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

It’s 12 months since former Ireland B international and current Swindon Town chairman Lee Power took control of the club. His financial backing allowed Waterford to appoint Pat Fenlon as director of football and bring in experienced players such as Kenny Browne, Sander Puri and Paul Keegan.

They have recently added David Webster, Ismahil Akinade and Bastien Hery too and more are sure to arrive. If the new recruits can knit together well with the group of players already there, then don’t be surprised to see Waterford challenging for a place in the top half of the table.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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