Munster derby to kick off season

The most eye-catching of the opening day fixtures for the 2013 Airtricity League Premier Division will see Thomond Park play host to the meeting of Limerick and Cork City.

Limerick, who have still to name a new manager in what has turned into a prolonged succession race to replace Pat Scully, will begin next season playing their home games at Munster Rugby headquarters in advance of their planned return to the refurbished Markets Field.

Drogheda United’s Mick Cooke is now being strongly linked with the vacant post at Limerick but, whoever ends up with the job, the ambitious and newly promoted club could hardly have wished for a bigger crowd-pulling start in the top-flight than the visit of Cork City, whose travelling support will swell the attendance for what will be an especially high profile Munster derby.

League champions Sligo Rovers begin the defence of their title away to FAI Cup holders Derry City while new Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny will open his reign at Oriel Park with a home game against Shamrock Rovers, the club he parted company with last September after just nine months in charge.

EA Sports Cup winners Drogheda United, who pipped St Patrick’s Athletic to the runners-up spot in last season’s Premier Division, travel to Richmond Park for their opening game against the FAI Ford Cup runners-up while Bray Wanderers will entertain Shelbourne at the Carlisle Grounds and Bohemians host UCD at Dalymount Park in the first Dublin derby of the new season.

The new Premier Division season opens on Friday, March 8, with all games kicking off at 7.45pm.

The format for the 2013 Airtricity League will see the 12th placed team in the Premier Division at the end of the campaign being relegated and the champions of the First Division being promoted. The second and third-placed teams in the First Division will contest a two-legged play-off for the right to play the 11th-placed team from the Premier Division over two legs for a place in the 2014 top flight.

The mid-season break will take place from June 17 until June 26 inclusive.

The Premier Division fixtures issued yesterday are subject to change depending on the outcome of the FAI Club Licensing process and the fixtures for the 2013 First Division will be issued in due course.

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