Skipper Murray returns to action as City focus on routing rivals Drogheda

ONE of the more potent domestic rivalries of recent seasons resumes at Turner’s Cross tonight when Cork City face Drogheda United in the Setanta Cup (Setanta Ireland, 8.05pm).

The joint table-toppers in Group One will bid to resume winning ways after opening Setanta Cup victories but then failing to collect maximum points in their first two games of the eircom League season.

Cork skipper Dan Murray returns after a bout of tonsillitis saw him miss Friday’s 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers but, with full back Danny Murphy suspended, the Leesiders will be forced into another reshuffle at the back. Manager Alan Mathews has also indicated that he might make one or two other changes this evening, which could mean a start for striker John O’Flynn, who was an injury-time sub at Tolka Park.

Having beaten Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park in their Setanta Cup curtain-raiser, Cork have since had to settle for draws in the league.

“I wasn’t pleased with the result against Rovers because I felt that we dominated the game,” says Mathews. “The goal we conceded was a bit soft too — especially since we had worked hard to take the lead — but early in the season is the best time to nail that kind of thing.”

Drogheda have had an even more difficult start to the season, squeezing past Cliftonville 3-2 in the Setanta Cup, before losing 1-0 at home to Rovers and then sharing the points in Sligo on Saturday.

But Mathews hasn’t been taken in by the surprisingly slow start to the season from the Setanta Cup holders and eircom League champions. “First of all, you have to give Rovers a lot of credit for the way they performed in United Park,” he says, “but you only have to look at Drogheda’s squad to see how strong they are. Good players are always good and we’re only two games into the league so I wouldn’t read much into the results.”

And Mathews, eager to claim his first home win as manager, says he’s expecting a memorable night at

Turner’s Cross.

“I think it’s a great game,” he says. “We had nearly a full house for our opening match here and we also brought large numbers to Dublin so I’m expecting a big crowd again tonight. Drogheda have been the most successful club in the last couple of years so this is going to be a good test.”

For his part, Drogs manager Paul Doolin will be looking forward to playing on the fine Turner’s Park surface after criticising the state of the pitch in Sligo on Saturday. Flu victim Tony Grant should be fit for the fray tonight but club captain Declan O’Brien and defender Jason Gavin are still a week away from full fitness.

Meanwhile, tonight’s other Group One game is an all-northern clash at Solitude in which both Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts will be looking to get their first Setanta Cup points on the board.

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