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Controversial suspensions overshadow Dublin derby kick-off

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Keith Fahey in action on his return to St Patrick’s Athletic back in 2014. Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Keith Fahey in action on his return to St Patrick’s Athletic back in 2014. Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Keith Fahey in action on his return to St Patrick’s Athletic back in 2014. Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

DUBLIN rivals Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic will meet on the first day of the 2015 SSE Airtricity League season, but suspension will rob the game of seven high-profile players, including winter mover Keith Fahey (below).

The midfielder was expected to be the centre of attention when the two sides locked horns after his controversial winter move from Inchicore to Tallaght.

However, he will have to sit out the game on March 6, even though he picked up just four bookings in the year of 2014.

The league's policy of carrying over bans into the following year has been widely criticised by players and managers.

Rovers will be without five players if they complete a deal to re-sign Stephen McPhail. Goalkeeper Barry Murphy, midfielder Ryan Brennan and new capture Gavin Brennan also miss out - the latter is unavailable due to a red card suspension but the others picked up the minimum amount of bookings to trigger a ban.

The Saints must cope without defender Sean Hoare and key midfielder Killian Brennan, meaning that all three Brennan brothers will be in the stands.

A fortnight ago, Saints star Brennan articulated his grievances with the system. "So I played around 40 games, league and cup, and pick up a yellow in the cup final. I'm now suspended for first league game," he tweeted, adding the hashtag #loishambles.

Murphy said: "What a joke of a league this is sometimes. Four yellows in a whole season and you miss the first game of a new season."

The Tallaght meeting should still draw a healthy crowd on an opening weekend which sees three games on Friday and three on Saturday.

That's because Bray Wanderers have opted to move their game to Saturdays at 5.45pm this term, while Limerick return to their spiritual home of Markets Field with plans for 7.0pm kick-offs in an attempt to make it a centrepiece of the weekend.

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Bohemians travel to the renovated stadium on March 7, the same day that Drogheda are in Bray and Sligo Rovers host Cork City at The Showgrounds.

New Sligo boss Owen Heary is relishing a showdown with last term's runners-up as he settles into his new role with three home games in his first four starts.

TOUGH

"It will definitely be a big test for us and a tough game but at least we are at home," he said.

"They had a great season last year. It is the type of game that we want to be winning if we are going to have a successful year."

Champions Dundalk kick off on the Friday night at home to newly-promoted Longford Town, while Galway United return to the top table with the visit of Derry City to Eamonn Deacy Park.

There is little chance of a title decider to culminate next year's campaign as all the likely contenders are kept apart for the climax.

But Dundalk - who claimed the crown with a 2-0 home victory over Cork in a remarkable conclusion - will be in Turner's Cross for the penultimate game of the season.

There are two midweek rounds factored into a title race which has been extended by a week with the FAI Cup final being pushed back to Sunday, November 8. The league is scheduled to finish up on October 30.


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