Waterford welcome Shamrock Rovers to the RSC for the first time in league action since 2007 (kick off 7.45pm). Alan Reynolds’ men have started the season brightly – winning all three home games – and so a big home crowd is expected in front of the live TV cameras for the visit of the Hoops.
Both sides are up towards the top of the table and this fixture will bring memories back to fans from an older generation of the time from the mid-1960s onwards when the two clubs battled it out for honours in the League of Ireland.
Back then Waterford were the league heavyweights. All six of their titles came across an amazing eight year period beginning in the 1965/66 season. Meanwhile Rovers were the cup kings, winning an incredible six cups in a row starting in 1964.
“Friday is a special one because there is great tradition between Waterford and Shamrock Rovers down through the years,” acknowledged Blues Boss Alan Reynolds who lined for the Hoops the last time the clubs met in the league back in November 2007.
“I have played for both clubs, so I know what it’s like and I’m sure that there will be a cracking atmosphere at the game. We’re lucky to have some of the most passionate fans in the league here in Waterford who continue to get behind us both home and away but it’s vital that they are the 12th man for us during this game.
“Shamrock Rovers are one of the top sides in the league and we know how difficult this game is going to be. I don’t think that we’ll be found wanting for effort and I’m confident that we can be on the right side of the result.'
Waterford come into the game just a point behind Rovers and four off Cork City who currently top the table. The Blues are level on points with Dundalk who beat Waterford with an injury time winner in Oriel Park last Monday.
“It’s obviously disappointing that we did not get anything from the Dundalk game but we are hoping to bounce back with a win against Shamrock Rovers,” said Waterford captain Paul Keegan.
“This could be the perfect tonic to get over the disappointment of Dundalk. We did well in Oriel Park and we’ll be looking to build on that against Rovers. We want to secure a result and get back to winning ways.
“Things have started off well enough but listening to the manager, I know that there is a lot more in us. I think that overall we can perform better. Obviously we are winning games but we’re not getting carried away with ourselves.
“We have a long season ahead of us so and we intend to hang in there. We know that we have to win our home games and pick up as much as we can on the road and we know that tonight’s game is going to be tough.”
Waterford have a number of injury concerns with Rory Feely, Stanley Aborah and Izzy Akinade all out. Akinade has caused Rovers difficulties on the pitch when in Bohs colours in recent years and is a big loss for the Blues.
Bastien Héry is a doubt but he did at least train this week following injuries that limited his game time against Sligo Rovers and Bohemians and ruled him out of last Monday’s match in Oriel Park. Courtney Duffus is another doubt and he will require a fitness test ahead of kick off.
The excellent start to the season so far for Shamrock Rovers could get even better with the possibility of the Hoops topping the table by the conclusion of the action on Friday night. The Hoops moved up to second place in the table last Monday night following their 1-0 win in Markets Field against Limerick
A win in Waterford will, thanks to a superior goal difference, see the Hoops hit top spot in the table above Cork City who don’t play in the league on Friday. Rovers have won four of their last five games and have only conceded two goals in their last six league fixtures.
“Waterford have started well and I'm sure they'll expect to be up there come the end of the season,” said Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley. “They've some good players so it'll be a really tough game. They've played different ways this season.
“They've played a diamond. They went up to Dundalk and played a different formation so we've got to be ready for whatever they bring, whether they play through midfield or more direct.”
It was back-to-back 1-0 wins for Rovers last weekend as they beat St. Pat’s in Tallaght on Friday before the win in Limerick on Bank Holiday Monday. They were both tight affairs but overall the Hoops deserved to garner all six points from those games.
The match in Markets Field on Monday was in doubt due to snow on Shannonside on Sunday but the Limerick venue passed an early pitch inspection even if the surface was far from ideal for the game. Bradley wasn’t happy with the pitch nor referee Graham Kelly’s decision to send off Sean Kavanagh late in the game.
"We were worried on the Sunday morning during training because of the snow and we were hoping that the game [against Limerick] would go ahead,” said Bradley. “We wanted to go and play it and get points on the board, not to be left for another four to six weeks or whenever in the schedule.
“The pitch was the worst pitch we've played on by some way. I don't know how it looks from the stands but when you're on it, it's horrendous. Considering that I thought we moved the ball well.
"At times it was slow, we had to take extra touches because of the pitch. It wasn't an easy surface to play on but we were all aware of that before going down there, we spoke about it.
“We controlled the game up until the last ten minutes when we had ten men and they had a little bit of play and put it in the box. I thought Sean Kavanagh's sending off was a really bad decision.
"At the time I didn't see it so I couldn't really comment on it but I've obviously watched it back a number of times on video and it's not even a yellow card.
“I don't think it's actually even a free kick. The ref must have thought he saw something to issue a red card but it's an unbelievably bad decision. Sean doesn't actually do anything, he doesn't leave his feet or show studs and he's not aggressive.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
50 years ago Waterford won the league title (only their second ever at the time) while Shamrock Rovers won the FAI Cup. The two teams met in that 1968 cup final with Rovers upsetting the odds by winning 3-0 – their fifth FAI Cup win in a row. The attendance in Dalymount Park that day was 39,128 – the second biggest gate in the history of the competition.
This is the first meeting at the RSC since the EA Sports Cup quarter final in 2009 when the Blues won 2-1 thanks to goals from Willie John Kiely and John Kearney. Stephen Bradley was in the Rovers line up in that match.
When they last played in league action, the teams drew 0-0 in Tolka Park on the last day of the 2007 season – current Blues boss Alan Reynolds played for the Hoops that day. When the teams met in Tolka Park in May earlier that year, the match was abandoned after 52 minutes after one of the floodlight pylons came loose in high winds – it was 1-1 at the time. Rovers won both the re-arranged fixture and the tie played out at the RSC in August 2007 by a scoreline of two goals to one.
Waterford 21/10; Draw 21/10; Shamrock Rovers 13/10.
Waterford 1 – 1 Shamrock Rovers
Injured: Rory Feely, Stanley Aborah, Izzy Akinade
Doubtful: Bastien Héry, Courtney Duffus
Suspended: Sean Kavanagh
MATCH TICKETS: With a bumper crowd expected at the RSC for Friday’s game against Shamrock Rovers, the club urges all our fans to pre-purchase their match ticket for the game. Pre-sale at RSC as follows— Waterford FC (@WaterfordFCie) March 19, 2018
Wednesday from 5pm-7.30pm, Thursday from 5pm-7.30pm and Friday from 12pm-4pm pic.twitter.com/3v0y6mpMw2