Date: 7:45 p.m. March 20, 2009
Venue: Dalymount Park
Att: 4,200 (est)
The Gypsies will be without their talismanic captain Owen Heary, who will serve a one-match suspension carried over from last season, while striker Neale Fenn and midfielder Killian Brennan miss out through injury. In Rovers, they are likely to meet a side in high spirits following the opening of their new stadium in Tallaght last weekend, a victory which brought the Hoops level with Bohs on four points.
Although Bohs finished an incredible 48 points ahead of their south-side rivals and won all three games between the sides last season, Fenlon said he expects Rovers to challenge for the title this season under the stewardship of new manager Michael O'Neill. "I believe that Rovers could turn out to be title contenders this year," Fenlon said. "Michael O’Neill is a very good manager and he has a decent squad of players. The three former Drogheda players brought in were very impressive signings. Last season we were fortunate to come out on top in the three league matches but I don’t think it will be the same this season. I expect a very tough and tight game."
Following a disappointing turnout at Bohs' first home outing of the season against Derry City last weekend, a game which ended 1-1, Fenlon has called for the Gyspies faithful to come out in force on Friday. "I think that Rovers will bring a big crowd with them and I would appeal to our own fans to turn out in force and generate a noisy atmosphere to encourage us," he said. "Our own fans have been excellent since I joined the club but we need to get the full extent of our fan base back inside Dalymount Park for fixtures like these. If we can do that, it will drive this club on to further success."
The game will present Rovers boss O'Neill with his first taste of a Dublin derby, but the Belfast native is under no illusions about what to expect come kick-off on Friday. "We’ll go into the game in good shape," he said. "We’re unbeaten and it’s a good time for us to go and see what progress we’ve made so far this season. We’re going up against the champions, the best team in the country, but we’ll go to Dalymount Park with no fear. It’s a huge game and the players will be up for it."
While Heary's suspension for this game has been known about for several weeks, Fenlon was dealt a double injury blow earlier this week when Fenn (calf) and Brennan (ribs) were ruled out. All three players have started Bohs' opening two fixtures, meaning that Fenlon will be forced into a major re-shuffle. Brian Shelley is likely to make his competitive debut for the Gypsies at right-back, while on-loan Graham Carey could make his first league start after two substitute appearances. Jason Byrne could partner Glen Crowe in attack. Mark Rossiter is also a doubt with an infected ankle, but fit-again Conor Powell is ready to step in. Glenn Cronin, who missed the game with Derry, is also available for selection once more.
Pink and proud
Rovers should have an almost full-strength squad to choose from, although doubts remain over Sean Webb (ankle) and Stephen Bradley (hamstring). However, the Hoops welcome back both Pat Flynn and Sean O’Connor from suspension. Incidentally, this game, which will be refereed by Richie Winter, will see Rovers wear a specially commissioned pink away strip to raise money for and awareness of Action Breast Cancer Ireland.
extratime.ie prediction: The bookies have Rovers as big as 3-1 to win this one, but our money is still going on a home win.