The SSE Airtricity League returns - Here's a preview of tonight's action
Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30
The season gets underway tonight and here are the game to look forward to.
Cork City v Bohemians
Turner's Cross (7.45)
League form: Cork City DLWDL, Bohemians DWWWL
Match odds: Cork City 4/7, Draw 13/5, Bohemians 5/1
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin)
Team news: Bohemians are likely to give competitive debuts to strikers Kurtis Byrne and Mark Quigley, as well as winger Aymen Ben Mohamed, in tonight's opening game of the season. Cork, meanwhile, welcome Kevin O'Connor back after he missed last weekend's President Cup match against Dundalk. However, John Kavanagh and Garry Buckley remain out injured.
Talking point: After finishing second in the last two seasons, the big question now is whether Cork can go one better this year. After last weekend's President's Cup win, expectations have risen somewhat. Yet if they are to sustain the challenge over the course of the season, it seems clear they have to upgrade their standards and adopt a more possession-based game.
Verdict: Home win
St Patrick's Athletic v Galway
Richmond Park (7.45)
League form: St Patrick's Athletic LWLLW, Galway United WLDDL
Match odds: St Patrick's Athletic 4/9, Draw 3/1 Galway United 6/1
Referee: Robert Harvey (Dublin)
Team news: Galway are missing Marc Ludden (foot), Alex Byrne (groin) and Armin Aganovic (knee). St Pat's have Jack Bayly out, while Keith Treacy is a doubt and Lee Desmond faces a late fitness test.
Talking point: Despite winning a trophy last year, St Pat's still underperformed. Nonetheless, Galway manager Tommy Dunne believes the Saints are genuine contenders to reclaim a league title last won in 2013. "They've got stability, with three of their back four being the same as last year," said Dunne. "They've signed well, too, and the front three, attacking-wise, are as good as you'll see in this country." It also has to be pointed out that Dunne has shopped well in the transfer window, but not well enough to win this game.
Verdict: Home win
Finn Harps v Derry City
Finn Park (8.0)
League form: Finn Harps WWWLW, Derry City DWWLL
Match odds: Finn Harps 2/1, Draw 11/5, Derry City 13/10
Referee: Tomas Connolly (Dublin)
Team news: Finn Harps have to plan without Josh Mailey, while Packie Mailey and Ciaran Coll also face late fitness tests. Derry have two players rated doubtful - Gareth McFadden and Conor McCormack.
Talking point: Arriving from the First Division, the last thing Finn Harps want is to book a return ticket to the lower league. While few expect them to stay up, a good start can set the tone for the year. With this in mind, an opening day victory - especially over their neighbours - would provide a massive injection of confidence. However, Rory Patterson is back in a Derry shirt, meaning that scenario is unlikely to unfold, especially as the year in Australia appears to have refreshed the Northern Ireland international.
Verdict: Away win
Wexford Youths v Longford
Ferrycarrig Park (8.0)
League form: Wexford Youths WWWWL, Longford Town LDWWW
Match odds: Wexford Youths 6/4, Draw, 7/4, Longford Town 11/5
Referee: Robert Rogers (Dublin)
Team news: New signings Aidan Friel, Danny Ledwith, Paul Murphy and Matt Connor are in line to make their Wexford debuts, but Peter Higgins, who underwent knee surgery last Friday, is expected to be out for four to six weeks. Longford also have their injury problems. Rhys Gorman, who had an ankle operation, is out for three months, while Lee Duffy, Don Cowan and Peter McGlynn are further absentees.
Talking point: Wexford midfielder Eric Molloy has made his intentions clear. "I don't see any reason for us to fear them," Molloy said. "This is a game we'll be targeting." In contrast, Longford are simply targeting stability after a year when they flirted with relegation before finishing the campaign strongly to secure their Premier Division status.
Verdict: Home win