Wexford FC make the journey along the south coast to St. Colman’s Park to face Cobh Ramblers for their opening game of the 2017 SSE Airticity First Division season on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
Ramblers will be hoping to build on last season’s strong finish which saw then finish third in the regular season standings eventually losing out to Drogheda United in the First Division playoff.
Wexford who finished in 11th position in the Premier Division also succumbed to Drogheda in the playoff final and begin life in the first division under a new identity.
It’s been a busy close season at St. Colman’s Park, Stuart Ashton has been recruited as assistant manager to work with Stephen Henderson to help develop Cobh’s young squad in the hope that they can go one better than last season and clinch promotion to the Premier Division.
Eight new players have joined the East Cork side in the close season. New signings from Limerick FC, Ross Mann and Shane Lowth are in line to make their League debuts for Cobh. Dean Swords who joined the club from Ringmahon Rangers could feature up front also.
Cobh have been boosted by the return of midfielder Jason Abbott who is set for his first league appearance since June 2016 having recovered from a shoulder operation, Chris “Kaka” McCarthy will assume responsibility as club captain also in the absence of Kevin Mulcahy for the season ahead.
Pre-season results haven’t been encouraging for Ramblers, five defeats and only one goal scored hasn’t been a good return and concerns have been expressed about their potency in front of goal with the departure of last season’s top scorer Shane O’Connor to Waterford in the close season and now news that Jonathan Creamer left the club this week.
Manger Damien Locke has a near full strength squad to choose from for the league curtain raiser, with the only concern being over defender Craig McCabe who didn’t feature in last Friday’s Leinster Senior Cup game against Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
Newly confirmed captain Graham Doyle, who was withdrawn from the starting line-up for last Friday’s game after not feeling 100% in the warm-up, and Craig Wall who was replaced just before half-time with a shoulder injury, should both be fit to face Ramblers.
Whilst Cobh have retained most of last year’s squad this is a vastly different Wexford outfit to the one who finished last season, Lee Duffy who played eleven games for Longford Town in 2016 scoring one goal is expected to start upfront, the striker enjoyed a good spell at Drogheda in 2015 scoring seven goals.
With the departure of Danny Furlong to New Zealand, Duffy will be looked at to fill this void. The 4-2 reversal in Tolka Park last Friday night was Wexford FC’s first competitive outing and only third game as the new entity as they also suffered defeats in pre-season to Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United
Referee: Marc Lynch
Wexford FC (as Wexford Youths) and Cobh Ramblers have played each other 16 times in the First Division since the former’s debut season in 2007.
Wexford have victorious on 13 occasions to Cobh’s three.
Wexford’s first win in League of Ireland football was against Cobh in their first home League fixture at Ferrycarrig Park in March 2007
The last meeting between the sides in September 2015 resulted in a 2-1 win for Wexford
Cobh Ramblers 10/11 Draw 23/10 Wexford 13/5
Cobh Ramblers 0-1 Wexford FC
Injured: Darren Murphy
Doubtful: Cian Kingston
Doubtful: Craig McCabe