Dundalk ready for visit of Longford and the start of their title defence

Tough opening test for newly-promoted Town as they face formidable champions

Dundalk’s bid to become the first team from outside Dublin since Waterford in the early 1970s to successfully defend the league title gets under way this evening at Oriel Park.

Stephen Kenny’s champions face his former club, Longford Town, who will be looking to maintain a bit of momentum themselves after last season’s First Division title success.

Midfielder Richie Towell reckons the visitors are “top six” material, which is presumably a finish Tony Cousins would take happily enough now.

A repeat




will be anxious in any case to avoid a repeat of last season when an opening night defeat to Drogheda United might well have ended up costing them the league.

The champions are without Darren Meenan or Stephen O'Donnell while Longford travel without full-back Jamie Mulhall who is expected to be sidelined for a few weeks.

It’s a minor enough list of absentees given the effect the rule that carries over suspensions will have elsewhere on the opening night. Shamrock Rovers will be without Gavin Brennan, his brother Ryan, Keith Fahey, Stephen McPhail and Barry Murphy as they take on St Patrick’s Athletic while Derry travel to Eamonn Deacy Park minus Stephen Dooley, Mark Timlin and Ryan McBride.

It’s hardly ideal but Liam Buckley’s St Pat’s won’t be complaining as they head to a side expected to be back challenging for the title this season.

The Inchicore outfit include former Rovers players Ciarán Kilduff, Jason McGuinness and promising young goalkeeper Conor O’Malley in their travelling party while newly-recruited Togo international striker Cyril Guedje, who spent time at Anderlecht and has more recently been playing in Turkey, may play some part if his international clearance goes through in time.

The bulk of the team, though, is likely to be made up of regulars from the last couple of seasons during which St Patrick’s have enjoyed considerable success. Buckley will be hoping to have a more settled defence this season with the number of goals conceded last season a key factor in the their title defence fell short.

Their return

Cork City, meanwhile, will also be without Shaun Kelly and Cillian Morrison while Galway United, on their return to the top flight, have Alex Byrne suspended and Killian Cantwell (knee) and Ger Hanley (Achilles) are out injured. The game, which will be attended by the President, Michael D Higgins, will be an interesting test for the newcomers who will be hoping Jake Keegan can pick up where he left off last year when he finished an impressive campaign as top scorer.

In the First Division a few of the promotion hopefuls are in action too but Cabinteely’s debut might just be about the most intriguing of the games with Wexford Youths providing the opposition as the League of Ireland comes to Stradbrook.

“It’s looking quite good,” says club chairman Pearse Toale, “and we’re hoping for a good night. We think there’ll be a fair bit of local interest to start with and the challenge for us will be to maintain it but we’re hoping to put on a good event and have a couple of surprises.”

Quite how the team will fare remains to be seen.

Eddie Gormley had little time in which to work and there are few enough familiar faces in a group that will have to learn fast together.

“I think it’s a good squad and he has a couple more in the wings whose registrations have yet to go through. I think he’s done sterling work to put together the squad he has. We’ll see now how they get on.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times