The first Munster derby of the new SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season is all about showing ‘bouncebackability’, with both Cork City and Waterford smarting from defeats on the opening night and anxious to get their first points on the board at Turner’s Cross this evening.
“When you have new players, it might take a bit of time to gel but I’d certainly hope it wouldn’t take five or six weeks,” says City manager John Caulfield, who saw his side lose 1-0 to St Pat’s at Richmond Park last Friday.
If anything, the pain of defeat was even greater for Waterford who, having taken the lead against Shamrock Rovers, ended up losing 2-1 to a stoppage-time winner on their home turf.
“Of course we’re disappointed with the result, especially to concede so late in the game with such a big crowd at the RSC,” says Blues boss Alan Reynolds, who has no injury concerns for a game against City which is set to see Damien Delaney make a quick return to Turner’s Cross.
“The most important thing is we learn from it now. We’ve trained well this week and it’s given the new lads more time with the squad after only arriving last week too. Going to Cork is never easy and we need to be ready for a big atmosphere and a tough game. Our fans packed the RSC last weekend and I know they’ll be in Cork in big numbers again and that’s what the team will thrive on hopefully.”
Caulfield, for whom midfielders Gearóid Morrissey and Kevin O’Connor are doubts while striker Matthew Gillam is definitely ruled out, is also expecting a tough test for his side’s first home game of the new campaign.
“We know from our games against them last year that it’ll be hectic, it’ll be frantic,” he says. “Certainly, you have to be on your game because it’ll be high-energy, high-intensity and we’re planning for that. They’ll bring a very big following and, for our first home league game, we’re hoping to have a massive turnout.”
However, striker Karl Sheppard believes one of the lessons to be learned from the defeat to Pat’s, is that City will need to be more composed in the build-up if they are to claim their first goal of the new campaign, having also drawn a blank in the President’s Cup against Dundalk.
“That’s something we spoke about during the week,” he says. “At times we went a bit too direct when we should have done what we normally do, keep playing and eventually we’ll be able to play through them. It’s something that comes with experience as well, not being too frantic on the pitch, just doing what we do best and trying to get goals that way.”
Champions Dundalk are also in search of a first win having been held to a 1-1 draw at home to Sligo Rovers in their opening match.
Tonight, they travel north to take on Finn Harps who lost their first game back in the top-flight 1-0 to Bohemians.
For Keith Long’s Bohs, there is a much shorter hop across town to take on another promoted side, UCD, the First Division champions having learned just how challenging the step up to the Premier Division can be, when losing 3-0 to Derry City last Friday.
For their part, Declan Devine’s Candystripes will expect a more searching examination in Tallaght tonight, with Stephen Bradley’s Shamrock Rovers on an early season high after that dramatic comeback win in Waterford and the Hoops ‘Ultras’ set to baptise the stadium’s impressive new stand.
In the top flight’s other game, visiting supporters to the Showgrounds will be treated to the unfamiliar sight of Liam Buckley in the opposing dug-out as the former Saints boss looks to build on Sligo Rovers’ hard-won away point at Oriel Park against a St Patrick’s Athletic side who gave new manager Harry Kenny the best possible start with that victory over Cork last Friday.