Sligo Rovers enter the 2016 SSE Airtricity League season looking to improve on last season’s disappointing ninth-place finish, during which they went through three different managers. Former Peterborough United manager Dave Robertson has been given the reins at the Bit O’ Red for 2016 and he has assembled a largely unknown squad during the off-season.
In all, Robertson brought in 13 players, while 16 have departed the Showgrounds including Estonian International Sander Puri, David Cawley and last season’s leading scorer Dinny Corcoran. Among the Sligo recruits is Michéal Schlingermann, Chris Lyons and West Ham loanee Jaanai Gordon, all of whom featured during pre-season.
Sligo have had quite a good pre-season with their only loss coming against the Liverpool under-21s, as Derry City and Athlone Town fell to the Bit O’ Red. Robertson will be looking to secure a top half finish for the season ahead, and their home form could decide whether or not they achieve this.
Pat Fenlon’s side also endured a frustrating 2015 as they finished third in the league and never really looked like mounting a challenge to Dundalk FC or Cork City in the top two places. They were knocked out of both domestic cup competitions by St. Patrick’s Athletic and lost the Leinster Senior Cup final to Dundalk.
The Tallaght outfit have strengthened their attack in the off-season, adding former Longford Town goal machine Gary Shaw, Killian Brennan and Dean Clarke to their artillery which already included Mikey Drennan, Danny North and Brandon Miele.
The Hoops have had an exotic pre-season schedule. At home they defeated both UCD and Shelbourne either side of their trip to India, where they faced Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk u23, 1860 Munich u23, Argentina u23 and Atletico Paranaense.
Fenlon will be under pressure to deliver success this season and a league title challenge will be expected in Tallaght. Shamrock Rovers struggled with consistency last season, despite losing only four league encounters, they had the most draws across the 20 league clubs (11). If they address that erratic form, they could add to their 17 league titles come October.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
Shamrock Rovers won two and drew one of the pair’s league meetings last season. The stand out result was their meeting in Tallaght Stadium where the Hoops won 5-1, a defeat which heaped the pressure on the then Sligo manager Owen Heary.
Sligo Rovers have lost only one of their last 10 opening League of Ireland games. That defeat came in Inchicore against St. Patrick’s Athletic in 2008 where they lost 3-1.
The last time the pair met on opening weekend was in 2010, where Eoin Doyle scored for the Bit O’ Red and James Chambers netted for the Dubliners in a 1-1 draw at the Showgrounds.
Sligo Rovers haven’t beaten Shamrock Rovers in the league since October 2013, when they defeated them 3-0 at the Showgrounds.
Sligo Rovers 15/8; Draw 11/5; Shamrock Rovers 7/5
Sligo Rovers 1-2 Shamrock Rovers