Heary hopes to capitalise on Drogs' heavy legs
SIX years ago, Bohemians and Drogheda United started the season as title contenders but there is a novelty aspect to their top-of-the-table SSE Airtricity League encounter at Dalymount Park tonight.
Neither have any real ambitions of winning the title – a top-half finish would probably represent a satisfactory season for both clubs given their financial limitations – but they got their campaigns off to the perfect start last Friday.
Bohemians, who look set to be well clear of the relegation worries they endured for much of last season, registered a comfortable 3-0 success at UCD, while Drogheda took star billing on the opening night by thrashing Louth rivals Dundalk 4-1.
The only problem for boss Robbie Horgan is that his small squad needed extra-time to beat Crumlin United in the EA Sports Cup on Monday.
"It was hardly ideal preparation, especially considering the injuries we picked up during the game," said Horgan, who will give strikers Declan O'Brien and Gary O'Neill late fitness tests.
Bohs manager Owen Heary expects a physical encounter and hopes that Crumlin might have done the Gypsies a favour, hinting that the Boynesiders could be a "bit leggy".
Elsewhere tonight, a big crowd is expected at Lissywoollen where Athlone entertain Shamrock Rovers.
Their last Premier Division clash was in the 1995/96 campaign, when Tommy Gaynor and Warren Parkes, names from a different era, helped the hosts to a surprise success.
Visiting boss Trevor Croly could do without a shock this time around and is confident his team will perform better than in their turgid opening draw with Derry City.
Champions St Patrick's Athletic return to business at Inchicore and it should be a tough examination for a UCD side that are still finding their feet under new manager Aaron Callaghan.
The champions didn't always get the response through the turnstiles that the quality of their play deserved last term and this is an unglamorous fixture in the context of other games.
"The players always have a spring in their step when they get ready for games in Richmond Park," said manager Liam Buckley. "And they really respond to the great support we get from the fans."
Sligo Rovers nicked a late winner at home to Athlone on their league bow and Ian Baraclough is targeting a bright opening at Bray, buoyed by the Setanta Cup thrashing of Crusaders last Monday.
"We persevered against Athlone," reflected the Englishman. "I thought we maintained our patience and did the right things to get our reward in the end."
Bray gained heart from taking a point in Limerick seven days ago but the Thomond Park faithful weren't so happy.
Stuart Taylor brings the Shannonsiders to Dundalk, who will be intent on putting on a show for their supporters to make up for the Drogheda debacle.
"Our home form in the second and third series of games last season was fantastic, so we're looking to continue that this year," said manager Stephen Kenny.
Airtricity League First Division – Waterford United v Galway FC, Waterford Regional Sports Centre, 7.45; Wexford Youths v Cobh Ramblers, Ferrycarrig Park, 8.0.