Out of the frying pan, into the fire: after losing their opening game at home to promoted Shelbourne last week, Cork City tomorrow night face the daunting task of taking on FAI Cup-winners and predicted title contenders Shamrock Rovers in the new-look side’s their first away test of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season.
“Whatever game we play will be tough, so we just have to get on with it,” says City boss Neale Fenn.
“I think if we can be a bit more positive on the ball and a bit braver, then we can hurt Rovers. That is something we want to do, something we believe in as a squad.
“There’s no pessimism here, there is a lot of optimism and we feel we can go there and get a result.”
Rovers boss Stephen Bradley, who was in Turner’s Cross last Friday before seeing his own side beat Bohemians the following day, says he was impressed with aspects of City’s performance despite the new-look side’s loss to Shels.
“It was a typical first game of the season,” he says.
“They were edgy, like most teams tend to be. But you could see in periods of the game they had real quality, especially in the attacking part of the pitch, and they had really good spells.
“We have to respect that and be ready for it.”
Kick-off in Tallaght is at 8pm. Against the backdrop of Preston North End’s ongoing engagement with Cork City, the latter’s board have announced that they will be hosting a meeting for FORAS members in the Metropole Hotel on Sunday at 5pm.
They have also confirmed that the club’s AGM, which was due to take place on March 4, has been put back to the end of the month on a date yet to be confirmed.
Any takeover bid by Preston’s owners would need the backing of the FORAS members but, according to the board, Sunday’s meeting will be for information purposes and no proposal is expected to be put to a formal vote.
Ahead of Shelbourne’s first home game of the season, where they face Dundalk, manager Ian Morris says he wants fans to “embrace it, be loud and make Tolka a fortress”.
The champions got the defence of their title off to a winning start against Derry City at Oriel Park last Friday, and manager Vinny Perth is set to choose from much the same squad for the trip to Dublin.
John Mountney and Sean Murray both remain out through injury, while Patrick McEleney and Georgie Kelly will undergo late fitness tests and be given every opportunity to stake atheir claim.
Familiar with playing against Shels at Tolka from his UCD days, Lilywhites midfielder Greg Sloggett said:
They are a massive club and it is great to have them back in the Premier Division. We want to go there and win the game and hopefully we can continue our good start.
Sligo Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic, both coming off opening-night defeats, meet at the Showgrounds, with Pat’s manager Stephen O’Donnell reporting a clean bill of health for his squad.
Not so for ex Pat’s boss Liam Buckley, whose Sligo side will be without Danny Kane, John Mahon, and Regan Donelon, while Lewis Banks is also likely to miss out.
Elsewhere, new-look Waterford, who got their campaign off to a bright start with victory in Richmond Park last week, play host to Bohemians.
Following their opening night north-west derby win against Sligo Rovers, Finn Harps make the short trip to the Brandywell to take on Derry City.
Meanwhile, a compromise has been brokered which allows the First Division to kick off as planned this evening, with the other nine First Division clubs saying they will play games against a Shamrock Rovers B team “under protest” and, pending a review, for this season only.
For their part, Rovers have agreed to utilise a panel of U21 players in the second tier and will restrict the involvement of senior squad personnel to one outfield player and one goalkeeper.
Shamrock Rovers II, as the team is officially called, will not debut until tomorrow when they play away to Longford Town.
The First Division season gets under way tomorrow night when Cabinteely host Bray Wanderers, Galway welcome Athlone Town and Wexford are at home to UCD.