President’s Cup to give taste of things to come
Both Sligo Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic to show new wares in new fixture
Sligo Rovers’ manager Ian Baraclough. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.
It is open to question whether some of his successors will thank him for tying the office so closely to the game but Michael D Higgins’s obvious enthusiasm for Sunday’s inaugural President’s Cup certainly adds something special to the first running of the league’s new curtain raiser.
It’s odd, of course, that it took them so long to come up with the notion of kicking things off with a game between the winners of the previous season’s league and cup but, now that they have, the early opportunity to see how two of this year’s likely contenders will shape up against each other is an attractive prospect.
Both have new players to size up and Sligo, in particular, might just have a point to prove after losing both league games in Inchicore last season when a win in one would have meant a different winner.
“No,” said the Rovers boss at yesterday’s official launch of the new SSE Airtricity League season, “I don’t think so because we’re not going to play St Pats until the 11th week so I think that for both myself and Liam it’s like a really good preseason friendly but one to be treated with respect. It’s a good way to finish preseason and then we move into the really serious stuff.”
Baraclough is without Gavin Peers, who is targeting a mid-summer return, and Kieran Djilali, who is far closer to recovering from his knee problem and Rovers could hand starts to close season arrivals Eric Odhiambo, Paul O’Conor and Sean Maguire.
Buckley’s more extensive overall of his title winning side, some of it enforced, means there will be various points of interest in his selection too, not least Keith Fahey’s performance in midfield and Mark Quigley’s up front, if he’s deemed fit enough to start .
“We’ve lost five or six and brought in five or six and I like to think that overall we’ve strengthened to some degree. It’s a good squad of players,” says Buckley.
Tomorrow’s game will provide another early indication of whether he is right.