The Hoops welcome Dundalk to Tallaght Stadium on Friday for their first home game of the new season. Both sides are looking for their first win of the league campaign and hoping to have secured international clearance for their new signings come kick off at 8pm.
In Rovers’ case it is the former Fulham defender Sean Kavanagh who joined ahead of the closure of the transfer window. He will likely slot in at left back with Trevor Clarke still carrying over a suspension from last season and Luke Byrne struggling with injury.
“Tallaght is one of the best stadiums in the league and there'll be a lot of fans there on Friday,” said Kavanagh about the up-coming game.
“I know a couple of Rovers fans myself and they're looking forward to the first home game as well.
“I'm looking to play football here and enjoy it and hopefully win things. I saw Rovers play a couple of times last year. I saw the derby when Brandon Miele scored the winner.
“From training with the lads you can see they're all good players and they like to play the same type of football as me. That was a big part of coming here, when the gaffer spoke to me about it.”
If Kavanagh does come into the starting line up, Hoops Head Coach Bradley will be hoping that Kavanagh can deliver decent ball into the box to Gary Shaw.
The striker has a good record of scoring against Dundalk with Shaw scoring the only goal of the game when the sides last met in league action.
Striker Dan Carr did make his competitive debut for Rovers as a substitute in last week’s opening league fixture and is likely to be sprung from the bench if required on Friday.
“Our forwards are good in the box in terms of being target men so you obviously need good quality to go into them,” said Stephen Bradley during the week.
“Sean [Kavanagh’s] delivery with his left foot, as we saw in training this morning, is as good as anyone. He puts it right on the spot for people and I think he'll be a big asset to us going forward.”
Joey O’Brien is still getting up to fitness having missed much of Rovers’ pre-season. The ex-West Ham player was on the bench during Rovers disappointing start to the season last week when they went down 3-1 in the Dublin derby at Dalymount Park.
The big call for Bradley last week was keeping faith with Kevin Horgan in goal. The 20-year-old ‘keeper played the last three league games of last season, after Tomer Chencinksi was dropped following an error prone display against Dundalk in FAI Cup semi-final replay.
However Horgan made a couple mistakes of his own in the defeat in Dalymount last Friday – particularly the third goal where he came for a high ball in the box, stopped, and got stranded as Dan Casey looped a header over his head.
Dundalk didn’t get off to quite as disappointing start to the league campaign as the Hoops. However having been held to a scoreless draw by Bray who are one of the favourites for relegation last Friday, coming a week after the President’s Cup defeat to Cork City at Oriel Park, Stephen Kenny’s men are facing into three defeats in a row at Tallaght on Friday.
Kenny rightly is focused on the busy week ahead of them which begins with the trip to Tallaght before welcoming Limerick to Oriel Park on Tuesday and then debuting at the new look Brandywell next Friday.
“We have an important week ahead with three games in a week starting with Shamrock Rovers,” said Kenny to dundalkfc.com ahead of the game.
“There’s a tremendous determination in the group and we will show that to get the right result. The squad has taken shape and we are very happy with the squad that we have put together.”
Looking back on last week’s stalemate with Bray Wanderers, Robbie Benson noted his disappointment.
“We expect ourselves to win every game especially at home, so to draw 0-0 on the first day of the season is a bit disappointing but we have to pick ourselves up now,” said Benson.
“We’ve got a big game next week against Rovers which is going to be big for both teams. “We have to keep our heads up going into the next game.”
“It was good to keep a clean sheet although we were quite open at times,” said the 25-year-old.
“On another night they could have scored. Gary (Rogers) made a great save at the end when they were on the break.
“They also had a lot of dangerous attacks that didn’t materialise so we’re going to have to get a bit tighter again, even though we kept a clean sheet. But the goals-against column is on zero, so that’s a positive I suppose.
“The league is going to be tight this year with teams dropping points because the league is a bit stronger as a whole.
“You need to be peaking in the mid to the end of the season, but we need to be in the mix at that point, unlike last year when we were too far behind when we started playing our best football.
“We obviously we want to be leading the pack but we just need to make sure we’re still in it every week and peaking at the right time.”
The last time the teams met it was in a frantic FAI Cup semi-final replay in Tallaght that went to extra time.
Alluding to the donnybrook that broke out between the two teams towards the end of that game which the Lilywhites won 4-2, Benson noted that he expects a “raucous atmosphere.”
“The last few games between us there’s been a bit of needle so, especially after results [last week], there will be a little bit more of an edge to it. Neither team are going to want to lose, that’s for sure.”
Referee: Neil Doyle
The sides played six games against one another last season. In the league action, Rovers had two wins against Dundalk’s solitary win in Oriel Park on the opening night of the 2017 season.
Dundalk defeated Rovers in the EA Sports Cup final played at Tallaght Stadium. The teams went head-to-head in the FAI Cup semi-final, drawing 1-1 in Oriel Park before the Lilywhites beat the Hoops 4-2 after extratime in Tallaght.
Dundalk’s new signing is striker Marco Tagbajumi. The Nigerian has played his club football to date in Norway, England, Portugal, Cyprus and Thailand.
Stephen Bradley played for Shamrock Rovers during Dundalk’s first ever visit to Tallaght Stadium. That match in June 2009 ended in a 3-1 win for the Hoops with Gary Twigg scoring twice along with Dessie Baker. Baker is now the coach of Rovers’ under-14 team.
Shamrock Rovers 13/5; Draw 11/5; Dundalk evens.
Shamrock Rovers 1-1 Dundalk
Doubtful: Luke Byrne, Ronan Finn
Suspended: Trevor Clarke
Injured: John Mountney, Sean Hoare.
Doubtful: Brian Gartland, Karolis Chvedukas
Suspended: Conor Clifford.