1. Derby days are here again
Unless you count Bohemians’ win against UCD last week as a derby (and let’s be honest, we don’t), tonight sees the first big all-capital clash of the season as Shamrock Rovers host St Patrick’s Athletic. RTÉ are bringing the TV cameras but expect a crowded, noisy Tallaght Stadium come 7.35pm.
It was that unforgettable 5-1 thumping by Pat’s that proved to be the first crack in Stephen Kenny’s Rovers reign last season and now Trevor Croly faces an equally stern test in just his second league game, going head-to-head with former colleague Liam Buckley.
Pat’s played some nice football against Drogheda on opening weekend, a fact which wasn’t reflected in the scoreline of a 1-0 win, while Rovers were made to pay the price for a missed Gary McCabe penalty in their 0-0 draw with Drogheda. With another derby coming quickly for both clubs — Rovers play Bohs on Monday while Pat’s host Shels on Tuesday — both clubs need the points.
2. Baraclough lays down a marker
Ian Baraclough’s demeanour after Sligo’s opening win against Derry City gave us another glimpse at the type of manager which he is, and how crucial that might be to the club’s further success. In pre-season, Baraclough made no attempt to play down expectations and stressed that his side would be good enough to challenge in and win every competition they are entered in this season.
Last Friday, after coming away from the Brandywell with a 1-0 win and three points that most managers would bite your hand off for, Baraclough still found room for improvement, pointing to the times when possession had been wasted and given away too cheaply. It was only Sligo’s second competitive game but he’s already setting a clear tone for their season.
3. Devine’s bargain hunt may yield riches
Losing players of the calibre of David McDaid and Stephen McLaughlin would be a big blow to any side of the league. When Derry City saw the two move cross-channel in the off-season, they also lost their top two league scorers from 2012 and a combined 19 goals.
Finding suitable replacements was obviously a priority task for Declan Devine and in snapping up Marc Griffin and Michael Rafter from struggling Dundalk, he may have pulled off one of the coups of the off-season. The responsibility placed on the youngsters’ shoulders last season meant that Dundalk didn’t always get the best out of them, and though their talent has long been obvious, they may begin to shine now as part of a stronger squad in the Brandywell.
4. Football on the menu for Limerick
The excitement and anticipation surrounding last Sunday’s Munster derby in Thomond Park, and the celebration of Limerick’s return to the top flight for the first time in 19 seasons, was an excellent advertisement for the league. Though Cork were good value for their point, anyone who watched Limerick’s performance will be excited about their prospects under Stuart Taylor.
Before his arrival, nobody had much idea what to expect from this fledgling manager — he said he is a man who likes to play football but, let’s face it, who would say otherwise? Last weekend’s performance was certainly in that mould and former Manchester United youth player Danny Galbraith will be an exciting prospect on the wing if he can stay fit.
5. Rotation, rotation, rotation
It’s only the second week of the season but if anything, that makes squad management tonight and tomorrow all the more important ahead of the upcoming midweek games. Bohs and Shamrock Rovers have a short turnaround before their lunchtime game on Monday while the league’s other teams have until Tuesday evening to recover. With little time for recovery, and the players not long out of pre-season, it will be interesting to see how that plays on the team-sheets tonight and tomorrow.
Airtricity League fixtures (kick-off 7.45pm, Friday unless stated)
- Shamrock Rovers v St. Patrick’s Athletic, 7.35pm Friday
- Cork City v Bohemians
- Drogheda United v Limerick
- UCD v Derry City
- Shelbourne v Dundalk, 8pm Friday
- Sligo Rovers v Bray Wanderers, 7.45pm Saturday.
- Mervue United v Salthill Devon
- Finn Harps v Cobh Ramblers, 8pm Friday
- Wexford Youths v Athlone Town, 8pm Friday
- Longford Town v Waterford United, 7.30pm Saturday