Croly seeks positive beginning to Hoops adventure
The competitive domestic season kicks off tonight with the return of the Setanta Cup, and new Shamrock Rovers boss Trevor Croly is relishing the start of serious action.
His team host Coleraine at Tallaght Stadium in the first leg of their tie. Indeed, all four League of Ireland sides in action tonight have home advantage.
"Training is all well and good but it's all about games, and the players are really looking forward to getting back to competitive action," said Croly, who must plan without Richard Brush, Billy Dennehy and Lorcan Shannon.
Fitness will be a factor. The Northern clubs are mid-season, but also come into this encounter on the back of matches on Saturday. Therefore, they may rotate their options.
Cork entertain runaway league leaders Cliftonville. Manager Tommy Dunne reckons that playing the initial meeting on home soil could be an advantage.
"It's not a bad thing," he said. "If we can play well and keep the tie alive going up to Belfast then we will be in a good position for the second leg when we will be fitter and have a couple of games under our belts."
St Patrick's Athletic meet Glentoran in an attractive fixture at Richmond Park. However, it's been a troubled season for the Glens, who have had financial problems and performed below expectations. Liam Buckley still rates them highly.
"They're sixth at the moment with a game in hand but they're definitely up there with the best sides in their league," he said.
Drogheda were the surprise package of 2012 and manager Mick Cooke is looking forward to his first taste of the cross-border competition. After strengthening his squad in the off-season, he feels that Portadown will provide a stern test. "I was at their cup game on Saturday (a 1-0 win over Ards) and they are a very good side," stressed Cooke. "Physically, they are very a big side."
Tonight's Setanta Cup Fixtures
(7.45 unless stated)
Cork v Cliftonville, Turner's Cross;
Shamrock R v Coleraine, Tallaght;
Drogheda United v Portadown, Hunky Dorys Park;
St Patrick's Athletic v Glentoran, Richmond Park (7.30 – Live on Setanta Sports)