The Hoops have the chance to go top once again in the early season league table on Monday night when Finn Harps travel to Tallaght (kick off 8pm). This is a fixture brought forward due to the UEFA under-17 European Championship taking place in Tallaght Stadium later in the year.
Rovers come into the game after Friday’s scoreless stalemate at home with last season’s double winners Dundalk. It was a tense affair in Tallaght in front of a crowd of over 4,700 including a sizeable travelling support.
“I thought it was two good teams that had a go at each other,” said Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley. “We had really good spells and so did they. That’s the way it goes when two good teams play, if there’s loads of chances and goalmouth action then someone’s not doing their job right. That’s what you get, a tough competitive game.
“We started really well for 20 minutes and were on top and then they took over for the last 20 of the first half. Defensively we were really good for that period. Second half I thought we upped the tempo and were the better team. I don’t think Alan (Mannus) had a save to make.
“The crowd was brilliant and there was a great atmosphere in the ground. We could definitely feel our fans there, it means so much to us before the game and during the game when you’re having tough periods and you can hear them. It’s disappointing that we couldn’t give them a goal.”
Bradley had to rejig his troops with Aaron Greene suspended and Ethan Boyle unavailable after picking up an injury in the Dublin derby defeat in Dalymount Park last Monday. That meant Roberto ‘Pico’ Lopes started in the unorthodox position of right back with Joel Coulstrain and Orhan Vojic coming in for their first starts of the season.
“Pico is a centre half and he went right back against one of the best wingers in the league (Michael Duffy) and restricted him to two crosses and no shots. I thought he was excellent all night.
“Both Orhan and Joel have had to wait. Orhan has had a knock the last while which hampered his preparation and Joel has been training away really hard. Both did well and they’ll only get fitter and stronger for that.”
Former Finn Harps player Ethan Boyle will miss out on playing against his old club but Aaron Greene is available at least for this match.
“Missing Aaron Greene was a big blow so we’re delighted to have him back for Monday. He’s available for the Finn Harps and St Pat’s games and then it depends what comes down in terms of an additional suspension.
“Finn Harps held Dundalk at home 1-1 and then went to St Pat’s and held them and by all accounts should have won that game. So we know it is going to be a tough game. Ollie has them really well organised.
"They’re dangerous and they’ll fancy their chances coming to Tallaght. We need to make sure that we’re ready for that and respect how good they’ve been so far this year.”
If Harps can get their first win of the season they can move up to sixth in the table. They have drawn twice (including, like Rovers, taking a point off Dundalk) and lost their two other games but just by a single goal in each case. That includes a 2-1 home loss to Sligo Rovers last Friday night.
“We have a number of lads with knocks after Friday night’s game, never mind Harry Ascroft, Mark Timlin and Sam Todd who all missed the Sligo game,” said Harps manager Ollie Horgan. “Gareth Harkin is definitely a doubt and we won’t have Mark Coyle due to exams.”
Those absences won’t help Horgan and his part-time team who will also be without striker Sean Boyd who won’t be available to play due to the terms of his loan deal from Shamrock Rovers. As is his habit the Harps boss was talking up his opponents ahead of the game.
“It’s not ideal to be going to Tallaght against a team of Shamrock Rovers calibre having played a game on Friday night but we’ll get on with it now. It’s the only Premier Division match on and as a part-time team it has meant a number of players taking a half-day of work for the second Monday in a row which is difficult for them and their employers.
“Stephen Bradley has loads of options from defence to the forward line. That gives Shamrock Rovers plenty of room to make changes after drawing with Dundalk on Friday night. They also have the advantage of being at home again whereas we will be on road on Monday from lunchtime.
“Rovers have a huge amount of experience and talent with the likes of Joey O’Brien, Greg Bolger, Ronan Finn, Aaron McEneff and Jack Byrne. So that is the scale of the challenge that faces us in Tallaght tomorrow night. It’s going to take a huge performance from everyone of our lads to take a positive result home.”
Ollie Horgan won’t have his assistant manager Paul Hegarty sitting beside him in the dugout on Monday as Hegarty is serving the first of a three match suspension.
Referee: Ben Connolly
When Harps were last in the top flight, they lost all three league encounters to the Hoops in the 2017 season. Rovers won in Tallaght 3-2 and 4-1, along with a 1-0 win in Finn Park.
This will be the 72nd meeting of the two clubs. From the 36 matches played in Dublin, Harps have won just seven.
Ollie Horgan’s men are looking for their first league win of the season while Rovers are looking to make their best start to a season over the first five games since 2016.
Hoops 1/3; Draw 7/2; Harps 8/1
2-0 home win
Injured: Ethan Boyle
Doubtful: Ronan Finn, Joey O’Brien
Injured: Harry Ascroft, Mark Timlin, Sam Todd
Unavailable: Sean Boyd, Mark Coyle
Doubtful: Gareth Harkin