League Preview: Shamrock Rovers -v- Derry City

Shane McEleney (right) and Aaron Greene in action in the Brandywell in Rovers' 2-0 win in May 2023

Shane McEleney (right) and Aaron Greene in action in the Brandywell in Rovers' 2-0 win in May 2023 Credit: John-Paul McGinley (ETPhotos)


The Hoops have had an even worse start to the season than 2023. Rovers have just a point from their opening two league games, compared with the two draws from their first two games last year when the Hoops took till their seventh league match to find a win.

It is 2018 since the Hoops last earned only a point from their first two matches. Rovers lost for the first time in 19 years in the league against Shelbourne last time out. Going three Friday’s in a row without a win and facing league leaders Derry City who, along with Shelbourne, are six points clear of the Hoops doesn’t sound ideal.

However, we aren’t about to go all ‘even if Shamrock Rovers eventually get their act together, it may already be too late’ as was the talk in certain quarters last season.

Of course Stephen Bradley’s side didn’t play last Friday with the Hoops’ home game against Drogheda United that fell foul of weather that caught Met Éireann forecasters on the hop.

And while last season’s start for Rovers included a 2-0 loss in the President’s Cup to Derry City, this year they defeated St. Patrick’s Athletic 3-1 in the current raiser for the start of the league campaign.

Speaking to shamrockrovers.ie about Friday’s postponement Stephen Bradley said: "Once we got news that the game was off, we went out to indoor facility at Abbottstown and trained, which was brilliant. The players got a good workday in, and it keeps up their levels for Monday night (against Derry City)."

The Hoops have a lengthy injury list with Aaron McEneff, Sean Kavanagh and Neil Farrugia (who had a shoulder operation last week) all out long term. Add in short term absences to Jack Byrne, Sean Hoare and Trevor Clarke, and it means that some of Rovers under-20 side such as John O’Sulivan, Cory O’Sullivan and Cian Dillon will be drafted into their squad of Monday.

Pico Lopes is also available having had a break after his exploits in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Even with that lengthy injury list, Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley insists that he’d have preferred the game to go ahead on Friday – they will now of course have to fit another mid-week game into their busy schedule.

“We wanted to play the game, there’s no doubt about that. This team is at its best when it’s playing games regularly so we wanted to play. But nobody could do anything, the weather’s the weather. I saw the pitch on Friday morning and it was very heavy so it was clear from early on there was no way the game was going to go ahead. So I think it was the right decision all round.”

With City being the team, along with St. Pat’s, who are best place to prevent the Hoops winning five league titles in a row, this match, due to be played out in front of the live Virgin Media TV cameras, could prove to be a crucial one in the league campaign.

However, while City did win in their first league visit to Tallaght Stadium last season (Rovers first home league loss in 648 days), ultimately their title challenge fell away in the latter part of the campaign.

"It will be another difficult game,” said Bradley about the visit of Ruaidhri Higgins’ men. “They've been a good team; they've invested heavily in the last two years in their group and when you sign someone like Patrick Hoban you obviously bring goals to the team, so we know it's going to be a difficult game, but I feel we're in a good place.

"You look at the last hour of last week (in the 2-1 loss to Shelbourne), we know what we need to improve on, but if we bring that standard into the game, I think we'll be fine."


When the Candystripes last met in league action in mid-September, the Candystripes led Rovers 1-0 at home with five minutes to go. If they had held onto that scoreline they would  have moved to within a point of Rovers at the top of the table with just six games remaining for both teams.

However, Graham Burke scored a late goal to keep Rovers clear at the top of the league with a lead they never relinquished. City ended the season seven points behind the Hoops – with one win, two losses and one draw in the matches against the Champions.

The head-to-head games will again no doubt be crucial in the title outcome but the Candystripes will also need to keep pressure on the Hoops throughout the season by exploiting when Rovers open the door to them when Stephen Bradley’s side drop points.

Friday night was a promising sign for City supporters. Playing at home to FAI Cup holders St. Patrick’s Athletic, it looked like it was two points dropped until a Daniel Mullen 92nd minute winner.

With a tough 90 minutes under their belt, City now face a Hoops side who had a night off on Friday.

“Obviously they’re going to be fresh with their game against Drogheda United having been called off,” said Higgins speaking to his club’s media team. “But listen, we’ve played Friday, Monday, Friday for a long time now, so it’s nothing that the players aren’t used to.

 "Hopefully the momentum gathered from Friday night will stand us in good stead going into this one.

 “Rovers were excellent from probably the 30 minute mark on in their game against Shels, and I think we all know by this stage the threat that they pose, and we’ll have to be prepared for that.”

 “They’ve obviously got plenty of talent in their squad, but so do we, and I’m sure it will be an exciting game.”

Referee: Damien MacGraith


When the teams met at the Brandywell in last season’s curtain raiser President’s Cup, City won 2-0 thanks to goals from Will Patching and Michael Duffy.

The Candystripes went back-to-back wins over Rovers by defeating the Hoops 2-1 in Tallaght their first league encounter in March.

However, Rovers won the next two games – 2-0 in Derry (Richie Towell and Jack Byrne) and 1-0 in Dublin 24 (Rory Gaffney). The final game was the 1-1 draw last September when Burke’s late penalty cancelled out a Cameron McJannet goal.


1-0 home win

Shamrock Rovers

Injured: Sean Kavanagh, Neil Farrugia, Sean Hoare, Jack Byrne, Aaron McEneff

Doubtful: None

Suspended: None

Derry City

Injured: Colm Whelan, Sadou Diallo, Patrick McEleney, Cameron Dummigan

Doubtful: None

Suspended: None