Shamrock Rovers v St Patrick’s Athletic , Tallaght stadium, 8pm - Live LOITV
An Uachtaráin Michael D Higgins will oversee some of the most watchable talent in the League of Ireland on Friday night. If Jack Byrne, the returning midfield maestro, and the Udinese-bound teenager James Abankwah is not enough, add St Pat's new striker Eoin Doyle, fresh off netting 19 goals for Bolton Wanderers in League One, to a tasty meeting of league champions against the FAI Cup holders.
"James came back to finish the Leaving Cert, and he plays with us until July," explained St Pat's new manager Tim Clancy. "You can see that there is a very, very high ceiling to where James can go. Athletically, he is very, very good and footballing-wise he is only going to get better, so it is a really interesting to see how his career develops. It is a pleasure for me to work with him in the next six months."
Abankwah's Serie A adventure is about to begin as Byrne returns from a cautionary tale in Cyprus, but both men on the same pitch is worth savouring, while we can.
“Rovers are the team everyone has to target, to try and close the gap - they won the league by 16 points last season,” said Clancy. “What Stephen [Bradley] has built in the last four, five years, the continuity in the squad, just shows the patience Rovers have had. It’s a successful method. My job, after Pat’s had a brilliant last season, is to try and get closer or even surpass Rovers this season.”
Tonight could also prove Roberto Lopes' final match for the Hoops as a gaggle of European clubs are circling after his role in Cape Verde's run to the knockout stages of the Africa Nations Cup.