'Saints are Hoops' big rivals'

Dwayne Leavy

SHAMROCK Rovers striker Gary McCabe insists that St Patricks Athletic are the biggest threat to the Hoops' attempt to win three league Premier Division titles in a row.

The midfielder also dismissed claims that Rovers' recent poor form is due to the pressure of going for their third successive title. The Hoops have drawn three and lost one in their last four but McCabe insists his side are not feeling the pressure.

"Not really, the three in a row thing isn't a factor; people have been talking about it to us. To us it's just another league. To others the spotlight is on Shamrock Rovers with the three in a row thing," he said.

"New lads have come in and everyone still wants to win the league. The lads know they are mentally strong. We need to bounce back and put the first half of the season out of our heads."

The Hoops' midfielder is also unconcerned with the eight point gap to top of the table Sligo Rovers and believes that the Hoops are still the team to beat and will be hoping to begin their title fightback when they entertain Drogheda United at Tallaght Stadium tonight.

"We are always the team to beat; every team that comes up against us gives their best, that's why it's so hard. Sligo will go off and play a different team this week, and they won't be as up for it as they would be against us. Personally I think Pats are more the team to beat (after Rovers) than Sligo, just with the way they play football. I think Sligo were a better team last year." Rovers started slowly last year before they went on to win the league but the midfielder is at a loss to explain the bad start that they have made this year.

"I can't (pinpoint why it's been such a bad start) we had a bad start last year but it hasn't been anywhere near as bad as this. Maybe we need to go back to basics and just focus on winning games."

Despite manager Stephen Kenny being criticised lately for the Hoops' poor run, McCabe has praised the methods he has brought to the club.

"The training this year has actually been a lot better, Stephen came in with a new coach and the training we have been doing is excellent, it's just a bad patch in the league and it just hasn't been happening," he says.

With results not going so well on the pitch, McCabe has been feeling the effects off the pitch especially in his native Tallaght.

He joked: "I get most of the criticism as I'm from Tallaght. I come up to the Square to do a bit of shopping. Maybe I should get a job in the Square I'm up here that often."