FAI Cup winners Derry first up in Sligo's defence
Sligo Rovers will kick off the defence of their Airtricity League title against FAI Cup holders Derry City at the Brandywell on March 8th.
In another country, the encounter might be regarded as an appropriate way of lifting the curtain on the new campaign but Gavin Peers says the amount of movement between clubs here makes the “Community Shield” element of it all just a little irrelevant.
“No, it’s not a bad game to get because we won’t have to travel far but we would have preferred to start at home because as champions we’d have got a big crowd,” says the Sligo defender. “I don’t think the whole league winners versus cup winners things matters a whole lot, though, because they’ll have a new team and we’ll have a new team. There’s so many lads changing clubs here each year that what happened the previous season doesn’t really matter so much.”
Still, he says, the team will go into the game confident they can start with a win, in part because of their strong recent form against Declan Devine’s side.
“We’ve done well up there over the last couple of years (Sligo have won two and drawn one of their last three visits to the Brandywell), which is great because for the first few years I was here, we couldn’t buy a win in the place.”
Elsewhere, there are a few other intriguing match-ups on the first weekend of the season, with Shamrock Rovers heading to Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk, Cork City set to become the first visitors to Thomond Park and St Patrick’s Athletic getting an early opportunity to renew last season’s rivalry with Drogheda while Bray face Shelbourne.
Shamrock Rovers confirmed the signing of goalkeeper Richard Brush yesterday and most clubs still have a fair bit of recruiting to do because pre-season starts around the second week in January. “We have about 14 or 15 at this stage so another four or five and we’ll be good to go,” says Peers, who hopes Danny Ventre will be one of those joining.
The loss of Brush as well as Jason McGuinness and Mark Quigley, all to Shamrock Rovers, will, he acknowledges, strengthen the Dubliners as they look to bounce back from last year’s disappointment in the league.
“Yes sure, they should be contenders again, but we’ll see how it goes for them; a lot will depend on how all the players settle in, there’ll be a lot of egos around the place and it’ll be Trevor Croly’s first job as a manager.”