THE World Cup is barely over but, already, the Champions League is kicking off.
Tonight, Bohemians carry the Irish flag into the competition as they face reigning Welsh title-holders TNS (The New Saints) in a first-leg second- qualifying round tie at Dalymount Park (7.45pm).
Bohs manager Pat Fenlon has seen TNS play and reckons: “They are a very good side, as good as anything in our league and probably better than most.”
However, Fenlon thinks Ireland’s summer football season should stand to his team.
“TNS have had a few pre-season matches and haven’t conceded a goal so far but the one advantage we will have should be our fitness levels. We’ve also a bit more youth in the team this year and that’s starting to show benefits. We’ve also got experienced players... it’s important we have the older players to help the younger ones.”
Bohs go into the game with Steven Gray and Anto Murphy both sidelined through Achilles injuries and Aaron Greene out with an ankle problem.
In the Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division, Sligo Rovers welcome UCD to the Showgrounds (7.45pm) with visiting boss Martin Russell not concerned that Friday’s 2-1 defeat at Pats was the Students’ third successive loss.
“It’s performance that matters to me,” he says. “I asked for an improvement after the Bohs game and I got it. Paul O’Conor’s full debut was particularly pleasing.”
Russell is looking forward to the visit to Sligo. “I was very impressed with Paul Cook’s team when they visited the Bowl recently. His lads play good football and competing against that kind of opposition provides a test we relish.”
Meanwhile Cork City have confirmed George O’Callaghan has returned to the club, while they have also signed Shane Barrett from Sporting Fingal. O’Callaghan, 30, who won the league in his first spell with the club in 2005, said: “It’s nice to come home. The last time I was here I don’t think I was 100% sure what I wanted to do, but now I’m older and I have a family. I’m looking forward to working with the lads and hope to work my way into the team. I enjoyed my time at Waterford but it’s good to be back home.”
City will be looking to bounce back from a 0-1 home defeat to Shelbourne, as they travel to Galway to take on Mervue United in the First Division tonight. Greg O’Halloran is a doubt with a knee injury, while Michael Devine (back) and Karl Caulfield (hamstring) join long-term injury victim Cathal Lordan on the sidelines.
Mervue go into the game on the back of a win against Longford which delighted manager Tom French.
“It was a hard-earned three points but I thought we deserved it. This win will give the lads confidence. We have a tough game against Cork but if we perform as we have been doing we should get something out it.”
Elsewhere a big crowd is expected at Thomond Park tonight for the centrepiece of ‘A Day For Shane’ as a Munster XI take on Premiership side Sunderland. All proceeds go to the Shane Geoghegan Trust which was established in the aftermath of the rugby player’s murder two years ago.
The game kicks off at 7.45pm.
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