Airtricity League Preview: Hughes Sets Sights On Rovers

Irish News Review looks at this weekend’s games in the Airtricity Premier Division as old rivals do battle in the top flight for the first time since the famous reds from Drumcondra were relegated. 

Shamrock Rovers V Shelbourne

The stand out game from this week’s round of fixtures takes place at Tallaght Stadium, between table toppers Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne. Gary Twigg’s injury-time goal rescued a point for Rovers from last Friday’s game to Cork City. While, in the Setanta Sport’s Cup on Tuesday, they needed a penalty shootout to advance past Cliftonville, following a 2-0 second leg loss. Manager Stephen Kenny expects another tough game against in-form Shelbourne; ‘Both teams have had strong starts to the season, taking seven points from nine. This is our first Dublin derby and we’re back at home, so we know we’ll have to be at our best. There have been some very good individual performances in the last few games, but we know there is room for improvement from our game in Cork last week.’ The champions are still missing Ciaran Kilduff, Conor Winn and Conor McCormack through injury, while Conor Powell is suspended. Shels will be without the injured Paul Byrne, but welcome back Stephen Paisley and Kevin Dawson. Alan Matthew’s side have made a positive return to the top flight, aided by striker Philly Hughes’ three league goals, they sit joint top of the table going into tonight’s game. However, following last Friday’s 1-0 win over Derry City at Tolka Park, Matthews played down his side’s position as early season table toppers; ‘Where we are in the league is irrelevant really at this stage but it’s a nice position to find ourselves in.’ Verdict: Rovers Win.

Derry City V Cork City

Derry City clash with Cork City tonight at the Brandywell,with both sides entering the game in contrasting form. Derry have six points from their opening three games and, despite last week’s defeat to Shelbourne, they bounced back mid-week with a 3-1 win over fierce rivals Linfield in the Setanta Sports Cup. Candystripes boss Declan Devine is expecting a tough game tonight, but remains confident his side can continue their good form; ‘As with every game between Cork and Derry, I expect this to be a difficult game. Having said that, if we play with the fluidity that we displayed in the second half on Tuesday we should secure all three points.’ Derry striker Rory Patterson is suspended for the game, while Shane McEleney is an injury doubt. Cork City’s return to the top flight has been a struggle so far. Defeat in their opening two games turned to hope as the Rebels were seconds away earning their first win of the season against Shamrock Rovers last week, only for Gary Twigg to snatch a point for the champions. Manager Tommy Dunne is expecting another difficult game tonight; ‘Derry is always a tough place to go, I watched their game against Linfield the other night and you could see that they are a strong team; they are physically strong, they’re quick and they have good creativity in the side as well. They had a good season last season, and I think they will be even closer to the top this season.’ Stephen Mulcahy, Kevin Murray and Neal Horgan miss the trip through injury. Shane Duggan is still suspended. Verdict: Derry Win.

Bray Wanderers V Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers welcome Drogheda United to the Carlisle Grounds tonight. The Seagulls earned their first points of the new campaign last week, winning 3-2 in a thrilling game away to UCD. A brace from Danny O’Connor, adding to Jason Byrne’s opener, secured the win for Pat Devlin’s side. Devlin will be hoping his team can record back to back wins against Drogheda tonight; ‘I’m happy we got off the mark in Belfield last week’ he said. ‘I know it will be tough against Drogheda, as it always is, but it is a good challenge for us to build on last week.’  Drogheda have four points from three games and sit in sixth position entering the game. However, following last week’s draw with Dundalk, and Monday’s loss on penalties in the Leinster Senior Cup to Firhouse Clover, Mick Cooke will be hoping for a more positive performance from his side tonight. ‘Hopefully Monday was the kick that we needed.’ Cooke said. ‘I’m glad it came so early in the season. I will again be making more changes and giving the players who didn’t play on Monday a run out.’ Eric Foley and Paul Crowley are suspended while Declan O’Brien, who is carrying a knock from Monday’s game, is a doubt. Verdict: Draw.

Monaghan United V Sligo Rovers

Monaghan United host Sligo Rovers at Gortakeegan tonight. The home side are yet to win a game this season, but earned a credible 1-1 draw last week away to St. Patrick’s Athletic, a performance manager Roddy Collins hopes can be reproduced tonight. ‘I was proud of our lads performances, especially away from home, against such sides as Shamrock Rovers and Pat’s’ Collins said. ‘Sligo will be one of the sides to fear this year. All I ask from the lads is a repeat of the commitment and attitude we have seen in our opening three games.’ Injured trio Paul Whelan, Shaun Maher and John Reilly are still unavailable for selection. Meanwhile Sligo, unbeaten under new manager Ian Baraclough, have begun the new season brightly. Winning two of their three league games and advancing to the semi-finals of the SSC, Baraclough has been impressed with his new side; ‘We’ve shown good spirit in the early stages of the season. To get to the semi-finals of the Setanta Cup is great for the club as we want to stay involved in every competition. We’ve made a good start and we want to continue that.’ Mark Quigley and Alan Keane are both suspended for tonight’s game. Verdict: Sligo Win.

Dundalk V UCD

Dundalk and UCD meet tonight, with the home side still searching for their first win of the new campaign. Sean McCaffrey’s side had to settle for a draw last time out against Louth rivals Drogheda United. Despite their opponents finishing with nine players, Dundalk couldn’t make their numerical advantage count in a heated derby game. McCaffrey is hoping for a better footballing contest tonight; ‘UCD play the game in the right way so they will suit us in that respect, they will be a footballing side.’ The former Ireland underage manager also stressed he isn’t too concerned about their winless start to the new campaign; ‘People will look at the game and feel we need three points, but there is nothing won or lost at this stage of the season. When we get the performances right then we’ll start picking up points.’ Luke Danville, Mark Griffin and Eoghan Osborne all miss the game through injury for the home side. UCD make the trip to Oriel Park hoping to move on from last week’s disappointing 3-2 loss at home to Bray Wanderers. Manager Martin Russell is hoping for a positive response from his young side; ‘If we are to come out with anything from the game with Dundalk we will have to play much better than we did in the Bray game. To be fair to the lads they have looked bright and hungry in training and I am sure we will bounce back in a positive manner in Dundalk.’ The Students are without injured pair Ger Barron and Mick Leahy. Verdict: Draw.

Bohemians V St. Patrick’s Athletic

Dublin rivals Bohemians and St. Patrick’s Athletic clash at Dalymount Park on Sunday afternoon. The home side are rooted to the bottom of the table, the only team yet to earn a point. While in mid-week they crashed out of the Setanta Sports Cup to Crusaders, losing 2-0. Boh’s manager Aaron Callaghan was serving a touch line ban during the game and stand-in boss Owen Heary didn’t hold back when evaluating the game. ‘That was our worst performance of the season.’ Heary said. ‘Hopefully last night was a kick up the arse for our players, because we now need to put in a good performance against Pats.’ Meanwhile St. Pats have made a positive start to the new campaign. Sitting comfortably in joint first place with 7 points from three games, the Saints were denied maximum points last week by Monaghan, who held the Inchicore club to a 1-1 draw at Richmond Park. However, Liam Buckley’s side will be confident of taking all three points against a struggling Bohs side. Verdict: St. Pats Win.

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