Champions Sligo facing a tricky opening test in Derry

Sligo Rovers manager Ian Baraclough is interviewed by Tony O'Donoghue of RTE at the league launch. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Sligo Rovers manager Ian Baraclough is interviewed by Tony O'Donoghue of RTE at the league launch. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Fri, Mar 8, 2013, 00:00

National League:Last year’s table would suggest that tonight’s game in Inchicore might involve the team to mount the most serious challenge to Sligo Rovers for the title over the coming months but there’s a slight sense of foreboding in Liam Buckley’s voice as he notes that: “Shamrock Rovers have signed three of Sligo’s best players and two of ours which is quite an addition on top of what they already had up there.”

Busy recruiting

All of the contenders have been busy recruiting, of course, and the champions head to the Brandywell with recently arrived Kieran Djilali amongst those in contention to play. Ian Baraclough also has Seamus Conneely back as he looks to get his side’s title defence off to a winning start.

The hosts are without Kevin Deery, Dermot McCaffrey (both suspended) as well as Sean Houston and Paddy Kavanagh (knee and hamstring injuries respectively).

Buckley has some strong options to choose from as he seeks to engineer a win over a Drogheda side that fared well at Richmond Park in the league last year. Goalkeeper Dave Ryan (hand) and Jake Kelly (thigh strain) could miss out but the likes of Killian Brennan, Conan Byrne, Conor Murphy and Sean Gannon are all in with a shout of starting. Form, though, may be a bigger fact than fitness with the manager conceding his side was “average to poor” as they made their exit from the Setanta Cup.

Fully fit

Drogheda boss Mick Cooke has everyone bar defender Alan McNally available while Pat Devlin actually has a fully fit squad for the visit of Shelbourne. Shels boss Alan Mathews has targeted a fourth-place finish as his extensively remodelled group aim to hit the ground running. His observation this week that they will have to cut down on suspensions might just have been aimed at Pat Sullivan who misses out due to a ban while Glenn Cronin (ankle) is a doubt.

Shamrock Rovers have Ken Oman and Sean O’Connor suspended while Mark Quigley (calf) is likely to miss out against a full-strength Dundalk. In the night’s other top flight game, Bohemians will be missing injured trio Shane Fitzgerald, Kevin Devaney and Kevin O’Leary while UCD are without Mick Leahy or Gareth Matthews (both suspended).

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