SHAMROCK ROVERS II
Shamrock Rovers are seeking their first win in the First Division this season, having only gathered a point from their opening three games. It is a tough task for Aidan Price’s men as they welcome Drogheda United - the team who finished runners up in the First Division last season – for this 3pm kick off behind closed doors.
Speaking to the Shamrock Rovers media team ahead of Sunday afternoon’s game, manager Aidan Price reckons that the nature of playing in an empty stadium won’t faze his players.
“I don't think it'll be strange for the players, they're probably more used to this than they are to the bigger crowds so I don't think that's going to be a challenge for them,” said Price whose squad is made up of players up to under-21 level.
“A lot of our lads in the underage set up play their home games in Tallaght anyway so that won't be any different for them playing in front of a smaller crowd or next to zero, or be any lack of motivation for them. Their motivations are purely for their own development and going out and doing the best they can for themselves and their teammates standing beside them.”
During lockdown Price’s squad kept in touch with the Zoom sessions that became the norm across the league.
“We had a weekly schedule in place. You'd have Zoom, which a lot of people discovered through the pandemic. They'd get a programme sent out to them each day with different aspects of their preparations. It allowed us to focus more on their individual needs and that interaction was vital so it was great.”
Rovers’ last played in the First Division against Cabinteely, conceding a late winner to Cabo – a result which Price admits “in particular was difficult to take” but with that game the other side of the lockdown he is looking forward to see how his youthful squad picks up the season again – starting with this match against a decent Drogheda United team.
“It's another tough game and especially as the first game back, there's a lot of anticipation for our guys to out and express themselves against one of, if not the favourites in the league.
“There's going to be times when we have to maybe protect them and take them out of the environment for their own development and learning and then put them back into it. But it's not putting youth in just for the sake of it - they're good enough. So that's a real bonus for us that we can test them and see how they perform in these difficult challenges and exciting games."
The Drogs started the season with two wins out of three before the country went into lockdown – winning 2-0 away in Cobh Ramblers and a comprehensive 5-1 home victory over UCD either side of a 1-0 loss away to Longford Town.
They travel to Tallaght for what is their first ever First Division game against Rovers’ second team. Last season when they visited the venue they lost 4-0 in the FAI Cup when playing against the Shamrock Rovers senior squad.
In the built up to the re-start of the season, Drogheda have played against three Premier Division sides, in Dundalk, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shelbourne – losing by a goal to both Dundalk and Shels and drawing 1-1 with St. Pat’s.
“We are coming off the back of a brilliant performance against UCD so long ago and we have worked hard since the restart and played three Premier Division teams," said club captain Jake Hyland speaking to the Drogheda United media team.
“There is a massive amount of motivation within the group coming from the players and all the staff. We really feel fresh since the lockdown. Training has been sharp and enjoyable so all the lads are raring to go.”
And the captain’s take on the behind closed doors nature of the season restart?
“It’s definitely going to be strange and something we are not used to but it’s the same for both teams so we just need to adapt. Hopefully supporters can come back before the end of the season.”
Referee: Adriano Reale
A draw or a win in Tallaght would see Drogheda jump above Longford Town into second in the early season First Division table.
Chris Lyons has two goals from the three games played this season. Last year, he finished joint third in the First Division goalscoring charts with 14. The striker spent a year at Tallaght Stadium playing with Rovers when the club last played in the First Division. He scored six goals from the 20 games played in that 2014 season.
Drogs boss Tim Clancy spent one season at Tallaght Stadium making eight appearances for the Hoops in 2015.
2-1 away win