SLIGO ROVERS defender Evan McMillan hopes that neutral football fans will be tuning in and not turning off the switch for the latest bout of televised football tonight.
Three rounds of games in the 2014 league season have brought three live TV matches, but all three (Shamrock Rovers-Derry City, Derry City-Cork City and St Patrick's Athletic-Limerick) have been, to put it mildly, damp squibs; poor games played in front of poor crowds.
The appetite for Saturday/Sunday afternoon games and the resulting poor gates and atmosphere – moving from Friday night to Saturday is thought to have halved the usual St Pat's crowd – is clearly evident on screen, the price paid when League of Ireland football is taken away from its natural home of Friday evenings.
But Friday Night Lights will be the backdrop again for this evening as Sligo Rovers travel to Dublin to face Shamrock Rovers and Sligo man McMillan says the players – on both sides – are aware of the requirement to entertain.
"I don't think you can say that as a player you try harder when your game is live on TV, but you are aware that people who are not League of Ireland supporters are watching," says the Dubliner.
"I have mates who would not get to see too many of my games live, but they do get to watch when the match is live on the TV, so I want to make a good impression, like everyone else. The priority for us as a team and as a club is to get three points here in Tallaght tonight, but we are aware that people expect us to entertain and have a good game.
"No disrespect to the clubs who have been on TV so far this season, but I think you will get a good game this evening, you have two teams who like to entertain and score goals, two managers in Ian Baraclough and Trevor Croly who like their teams to get the ball down and play," adds the former UCD and Bohemians man.
One major criticism of the TV schedule is that clubs are forced away from their traditional kick-off times, which is why Richmond Park looked so cold and disinterested when the cameras came for the Limerick game last Saturday afternoon.
"I think the timing of games does have an effect," says McMillan.
"Not so much in terms of the atmosphere, but in the way you prepare. As a League of Ireland player, you are used to playing on Friday nights or Saturday nights, when we have our home games in Sligo. Your body gets into a rhythm and a way of doing things, when you have to play at 2pm on a Sunday, you are getting up earlier, you are eating earlier in the day, preparing in a different way and that is knocked out of kilter a bit when you have to play at an unusual time.
"Hopefully tonight we will see a good game, Friday night in Tallaght Stadium between two good teams," adds McMillan. His family have already enjoyed a trip to the venue – almost a home game for McMillan as he comes from Templeogue, just down the road – this week as Evan's brother, David, helped Dundalk to a 2-1 win over Rovers in the Setanta Sports Cup on Monday night and Evan is hoping for more of the same.
"I love playing in Tallaght, the pitch is always in great condition and you can rely on that." he says. "Sligo have a good record there in the last few years, we went there towards the end of last season and won."
Winning has not been a habit for Sligo this season, though, as Baraclough's side have lost successive league games, most recently at home to Dundalk six days ago, while in their only league win, they had to come from behind to beat bottom side Athlone Town at home with a late goal from McMillan.
"There is no major panic in the dressing room here even though we are not used to losing back-to-back games," he says. "The Dundalk game was unusual, we were down to 10 men after eight minutes and Dundalk didn't create much against us before they scored very late. We have had a bit of a slow start to the season, but tonight is a good chance for us."
Rovers have put aside their Setanta Cup defeat to Dundalk and manager Croly wants to see the form showed in last week's derby win. "We need to repeat the performance we put in against Bohemians last week and if we do, we have a good chance of getting the three points," Croly said.