Drogheda United get their 2019 First Division campaign underway on Friday night as they host Cobh Ramblers at United Park.
Tim Clancy remains in charge of the Boynesiders for a second season, with Kevin Doherty as his assistant. Clancy has made a number of signings in the off-season, including bringing Thomas Byrne, Adam Wixted and Mark Hughes back to the club.
Pre-season saw Drogheda play four Premier Division sides, losing to Derry City, Dundalk and narrowly to Harps. They then drew with St. Patrick’s Athletic whilst also recording a draw against the Republic of Ireland U19’s and a 6-3 win over Drogheda Town.
Going into the first game of the season, Drogheda will be without captain Jake Hyland who continues his recovery from a broken leg, suffered in Drogheda’s play-off victory over Shelbourne last season. Kevin Farragher may also be a doubt, having missed several of Drogheda’s pre-season games through injury.
Stephen Meaney is again available for selection after missing a large part of the 2018 season through injury. The forward made his return to action in pre-season and scored a brace in Drogheda’s final pre-season fixture against Drogheda Town.
Last season’s EA Sports Cup finalists Cobh Ramblers kick off their 2019 campaign with a long trip north east to face Drogheda United on Friday evening.
The likes of Paul Hunt, Cian Leonard, Stephen Kenny, Stephen Christopher and Jaze Kabia have all re-signed with Cobh for another season. Ramblers also made a number of signings, including that of Ian Turner from St. Patrick’s Athletic and former Preston North End defender Charlie Lyons.
Pre-season saw Cobh play Premier Division opposition in friendlies in the form of St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers, as well as beating Wexford 3-1 and losing 1-0 to Limerick.
Ramblers also played twice in the Munster Senior Cup, beating Waterford 3-2 in January before falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Cork City in the next round.
In team news ahead of the league opener, Stephen Henderson will have to plan without several players through injury. Bryan Murphy and Eoin O’Donovan both miss out on the trip north east while new signing Nathan West is also unavailable.
West suffered a shoulder injury in pre-season against Limerick. Shane O’Connor will have to undergo a late fitness test on a back injury.
Referee: Ben Connolly.
The last scoreless game between these sides came in a 2008 Premier Division meeting. Since then, all nine games contested by the two sides have seen goals scored.
The standout games between these sides came in 2016 in the First Division play-off series as Drogheda progressed 3-2 on aggregate. After winning 2-0 in Cobh, the Boynesiders survived a scare in the second leg, which Cobh won 2-1.
Twenty points separated these sides in the league last season as Drogheda finished fourth on 49 points, while Cobh finished the season in eighth with 29 points.
Drogheda United 1/2; Draw 11/4; Cobh Ramblers 9/2.
Drogheda United 2-1 Cobh Ramblers
Injured: Jake Hyland.
Doubtful: Kevin Farragher.
Injured: Bryan Murphy, Eoin O’Donovan, Nathan West.
Doubtful: Shane O’Connor.