“In soccer, ritual sublimation of war, eleven men in shorts are the sword of the neighborhood, the city or the nation. These warriors…exorcize the demons of the crowd and reaffirm its faith: in each confrontation between two sides, old hatreds and old loves passed from father to son enter into combat.” Eduardo Galeano, Football in Sun and Shadow.
For supporters of Shamrock Rovers this has been one of the most eagerly awaited starts to a season in years. The buzz is back, anticipation is in the air and the feeling among fans is the new personnel recruited by Stephen Bradley are warriors who will meet the challenges that come with playing for a club like Rovers head on.
The manager feels it as well. “Rovers is a different club, you’re expected to win,” he said, “I don’t think many clubs have that in the country. So we need to get characters who understand that and want to go and meet it head on; who don’t want to shy away from it or walk away when the going gets tough. I know we have that because I’ve seen that in the last couple of weeks; we have different people, different characters.”
And what a challenge for the first game of the season, away to the champions of the previous three years in what will be a noisy and hostile Oriel Park.
For Ronan Finn, Darren Meenan and Michael O Connor there is the added pressure of facing their old side.
Fellow new arrivals Ryan Connolly, David McAllister, Roberto Lopes, Paul Corry, Tomer Chencinski. Danny Devine, Graham Burke and Sam Bone will be hoping to make their league debuts for The Hoops as the injury free and fit squad trained with a full complement yesterday.
Rovers will head up the M1 in good form after a very beneficial pre-season training camp in Spain which brought helped build the team spirit needed to challenge for silverware over the next eight months.
Speaking to shamrockrovers.ie ahead of tonights match gaffer Bradley spoke of his delight at the news that Rovers will be bringing a massive following to Oriel with the clubs total allocation of 570 tickets completely sold out. He said:
“I’m not surprised tickets sold out so quick, I’ve always said the fans are excellent no matter where you go and tomorrow will be no different.
“Especially when you play away games you always get a good Rovers crowd and a big turnout of home fans too.
“We have to put in a good performance on the pitch for the fans and there are still some places up for grabs which is good.
“The competition within the squad is excellent and that is really what you want at Rovers.
“We’re a different side to what we were the last time we played Dundalk in Oriel Park, we’re going up there looking to get the win.”
In contrast to The Hoops Dundalk are suffering a bit of an injury crisis and maybe some damaged pride after getting thumped 3-0 by Cork City in the President’s Cup at Turner’s Cross last Friday.
Gary Rogers, Shane Grimes, Chris Shields, David McMillan and Sean Hoare are all ruled out while ex Hoop Ciaran Kilduff, who was stretchered off against Cork and needed seven stitches in his shin, is rated doubtful.
New signings Michael Duffy, Connor Clifford and Jamie McGrath should feature for the home side in what will be the first match on the new 4G artificial surface at Oriel Park.
Everything is in place for what promises to be an explosive start to the new season…
Match live on eirSport 1 programme starts at 7.15pm