Twigg as hungry as ever as Hoops set hearts on hat-trick

It won’t be what pretenders to their throne want to hear on the eve of the new season, but three-in-a-row-chasing Shamrock Rovers are as driven as ever, according to striker Gary Twigg.

“If you’re at Shamrock Rovers and you’re not hungry you have to have a look at yourself,” said Twigg ahead of the champions’ opening clash with Drogheda United at Hunky Dorys Park tonight.

“That’s why I came here, to win things, and I’ve been lucky enough to win back-to-back leagues. I think everyone is in the same boat this year. We all want to win the league. We all want to add to that collection.”

Rovers fans are already drawing comparisons between the current side and that which famously won four consecutive titles in the 1980s.

“As soon as I signed for the club, before we won our first league, fans were telling me all about the four-in-a-row team,” said Twigg.

“I heard about if from the first day I signed for the club. If we can get to three-in-a-row you never know, we could possibly emulate them.

“We’re just trying to create our own bit of history. We have done it the last two years, and in the Europa League. We’ll be up there with the favourites and hopefully by the end of the year we’ll be the ones with the title again.”

Attacker Daryl Kavanagh, one of a raft of new signings by new manager Stephen Kenny, is out suspended tonight. Goalkeeper Conor Winn is also out with a back injury while midfielders Ronan Finn (groin) and Gary McCabe (thigh) will need to prove their fitness.

Any hope of Mick Cooke’s Drogheda causing an early upset before the live TV cameras are greatly hampered by the fact seven key players — Paul Crowley, Declan O’Brien, Tiarnan Mulvenna, brothers Ryan, Sean and Gavin Brennan and Eric Foley — are through suspension or injury.

Seen by some as dark horses to challenge this year, Cork City manager Tommy Dunne is adopting a cautious approach ahead of his side’s game at UCD.

“To be truthful, an away fixture against UCD would not have been the fixture I would have chosen for our first game back in the Premier, as they are always strong at home and will be tough opponents,” said Dunne.

The City boss hopes that both Davin O’Neill (knee) and new recruit, striker Tadhg Purcell (groin), will be passed fit to feature, but Neal Horgan, Kevin Murray and Stephen Mulcahy are all out with knee injuries.

Influential midfielder Paul Corry being almost certainly out with a foot injury is a blow to UCD’s hopes. They’re also missing striker Graham Rusk (groin) while Gary Burke, Samir Belhout and Tomás Boyle are out long-term.

Ian Baraclough has had less than a week to acquaint himself with his Sligo Rovers side ahead of their trip to Shelbourne in a repeat of last year’s FAI Ford Cup final.

Cameroon midfielder Jospeh Ndo should be fit following a back problem, though new signing, Haitian international Pascal Millien, is unavailable as his work permit is yet to arrive.

Shelbourne are without midfielder Barry Clancy, who serves a suspension following his controversial red card in the cup final.

Impressive in pre-season, despite their Setanta Sports Cup defeat to Cliftonville, St Patrick’s Athletic are expected to challenge this year, though boss Liam Buckley is hampered by suspensions for tonight’s opener with Bray Wanderers at Richmond Park.

Midfielder Greg Bolger and striker Christy Fagan are banned, while central defender Aidan Price is out with an ankle injury.

Bray are missing the injured Daire Doyle, Shane O’Connor and Stephen Brennan. Kevin Knight is on duty with Ireland’s Under-19s in Turkey.

Buoyed by the injection of confidence their progress in the Setanta Sports Cup has provided, Bohemians’ young squad travel to Derry City with a spring in their step.

“We have to play them at some stage and they won’t be relishing the fact that they have to play us,” said Bohemians manager Aaron Callaghan, whose only absentee tonight is new signing Dave Mulcahy (groin).

A calf strain rules captain Kevin Deery out of Derry’s side, while winger Brian McGroary is not yet match fit.

New Dundalk manager Sean McCaffrey waits on captain Chris Shields (knee), Stephen McDonnell (calf), Derek Foran (tonsillitis), Shane O’Neill (knee) and Gary Shanahan (Achilles) ahead of their visit to Gortakeegan tonight.

Roddy Collins’ Monaghan United have a full squad to pick from.

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