Bohs to welcome Shamrock Rovers on opening day of the season
Meanwhile, Cork will begin their defence of the title with a trip to Richmond Park
The Dublin derby of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount Park will kick the season off. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Cork City will kick off their defence of the Premier Division title they won in October with a trip to Richmond Park where the home side will get an early idea about just how much better equipped they are to make an impact in the top flight during the coming year.
Also on February 16th, Shamrock Rovers will head to Dalymount Park for the first Dublin derby of the new season while, for all the speculation about their licence next season, Bray have been penciled in for a trip to Oriel Park.
Even the launch of the new fixture list fell victim to the sorts of minor mishaps that tend to entertain the league’s detractors. First the ‘Airtricty’ in the competition’s title emerged as ‘Atrocity’ in a tweet from a supportive account on Monday, before the initial rounds of games were inadvertently leaked by the official website.
However there are quite a few games between sides that will see themselves as challengers for the title to look forward to over the opening weeks with Dundalk, for instance, at Shamrock Rovers in week two and last year’s top two sides due to meet for the first of four times at Oriel Park on March 9th.
Fixtures set to clash with European games for those sides that have qualified have been brought forward from the outset this season with four of the five matches that should have comprised Round 25, in mid-July, now set to be played on May 21st and 22nd.
John Caulfield’s men will have a testing couple of weeks either side of what could be an FAI Cup semi-final appearance in late September/early October with Dundalk due to visit before they head to Tallaght. But sides knocked out of the cup will again face a stop-start run in with four rounds of the completion to be squeezed in between August 12th and September 20th.
The meeting between two of last season’s top flight sides – Drogheda United and Finn Harps – is one of the highlights of the opening round of games in what should be a much more competitive First Division this year. It starts one week after the Premier, on March 23rd and, with three rather than four rounds to be played, finishes on September 15th after which a protracted series of promotion play-offs take place with the decisive games, between teams from the two divisions, scheduled to take place in the run up to the cup final on November 4th.
First rounds of games (7.45 kickoffs unless stated)
February 16th: Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk v Bray Wanderers, St. Patrick’s Athletic v Cork City, Waterford v Derry City, Sligo Rovers v Limerick.
February 23rd: Cabinteely v Wexford, Drogheda United v Finn Harps, Galway United v Athlone Town, UCD v Shelbourne;
February 24th: Longford Town v Cobh Ramblers (7.30).
Full fixture list available at http://www.sseairtricityleague.ie