Thursday, 8 March 2012

Setanta Cup Quarter Final

Monday nights game against Cliftonville was similar to the Drogheda game as Cliftonville came and played 4-5-1 as they attempted to curtail our attacking threat. It was a much changed Rovers team with 7 changes to Friday nights line up and it really showed our strength in depth.

Billy Dennehy, who scored the final goal in last years competition, got the ball rolling after he converted Gary McCabes superb low cross at the back post. In truth the Cliftonville defender should have cleared it out for a corner but he was unaware that Dennehy was behind him and Billy finished well. Chris Turner and Aaron Greene missed great chances to extend the lead before Colin Hawkins eventually gave us a two goal cushion when he headed home from a Gary McCabe corner.

At 2-0 you would have taught that we would go on and win comfortably but we tired at the back and as Cliftonville pushed 2 up front in search of the away goal they had 3 great chances to score and we were slightly fortunate to keep a clean sheet. The main thing is that we did keep a clean sheet and we are now in the driving seat to progress to the semi-final. Decent performances on the night from Hawkins, Turner and Greene.

There was a reasonable crowd of over around 1,500 and a decent travelling support but the fans still haven't taken to this competition and if all four Airtricty League teams prevail over the Irish League teams in the quarter finals then it is hard to see a future for the competition as the gap between the standard in North and South gets greater every year.

The League Begins

We always enjoy the short trip to Drogheda and although it was disappointing not to start the league campaign with a home game, it was a good night in Drogheda. We arrived up there at 5:30pm, got our tickets and then it was time for a few pints in the Windwill. With game an early 7:05pm kick off for tv it meant there was probably less Hoops than expected at the game but there was still 1,000 or so packed into the shed as the pre-game excitment built.

With high expectations going into the game, the most important thing was just to get the 3 points and that's what we did. We started well and dominated possession early on without really creating many chances, Drogheda played a 4-5-1 as most teams will against us this year and with Peter Hynes up front on his own they rarely looked a threat and seemed happy to sit and defend. We fell behind to a shock goal after Dean Marshalls free kick was aimed for the head of Alan McNally but missed everybody and bounced into the top corner of Oscar Janssons net. It was a set back but luckily we hit back before the break as Gary Twigg done what he does best by rounding keeper Gabriel Sava and finishing to level the scores.

We started the 2nd half strong and Twiggy put us into the lead after he vollyed home when the ball dropped to him in the 6 yard box following a Rovers free-kick. We expected to press home our advantage as Drogheda game in search of an equaliser but Drogheda still sat deep and only had one real chance to level the scores but Cathal Brady hooked the ball over Janssons crossbar.

It was a good 3 points and comeback from us and without hitting top form we played reasonably well. Gilbert and Powell impressed in the full back positions and look like good attacking options for us this year. Jansson had a few ropey moments but will still be happy with his debut and Sives and Oman where rarely tested, we flattered to decive in midfield and our centre midfielders will need to get to grips with being outnumbered if we are going to continue to play 4-4-2. Twiggy was quiet but still got 2, how often have we said that! Finding him a regular partner will be one of Stephen Kennys key decisions this year.

The Opposition

So with the league now underway and all squads assembled it’s time to take a look at the opposition to see who are rivals will be this season:

The old foe have had a dramatic fall from grace over the past two seasons and this year’s squad is a shadow of the all conquering teams of a few years ago. Aaron Callaghan was a surprise appointment as Bohs manager this year but he is a hugely experienced coach and they will be well organised and hard to break down. They certainly won't be the most exciting team to match and goals will be at a premium but survival will be Bohs aim and I think they will have enough quality stay off the bottom.

Final Prediction: 8th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Karl Moore - The former Man City youngster never got a chance to show his worth at Rovers last year after his mid season signing from Galway and he will be keen to prove his worth and kick start his career at Bohs

Bray Wanderers
Bray have proven to be a tough nut to crack for Rovers in the past and it seems like Pat Devlin’s men always perform against us. We have been lucky to get some crucial results in the Carlisle Grounds in the past 2 seasons but we have also been beaten in Tallaght and we can't underestimate Bray again this year although their squad isn't as strong as last year and will particularly miss midfield stalwart Gary Dempsey. Much will depend on the emergence of the next crop of youngsters and trying to keep their first XI fit.

Final Prediction: 11th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Danny O'Connor - re vitalised at Bray, Danny was a firm favourite for Hoops fans during his spell with us but put in some superb performances against us and scored a cracker in Tallaght last year. He was key to Brays survival along with Dempsey last year and will be their key man again this year.

Cork City
Great to have Cork back in the league and I'm already looking forward to the trip to Turners Cross on March 16th. They will be looking to push for a top half finish and former Hoops Tommy Dunne has added well to his squad to by bringing Dan Murray, Tadhg Purcell, Shane O'Connor and the excellent Colin Healy. They will pick up a lot of points at home and may even challenge for the top spots.

Final Prediction: 4th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Tadhg Purcell - The former Hoops striker was deemed surplus to requirements by Michael O'Neill and after an excellent goalscoring spell at Darlington he moved to Northampton where injury curtailed his first team appearances. Tommy Dunne moved to secure the big man on loan last month and he could prove a handful for a lot of defenders in the league this year.

Derry City
Surprised most with such a strong season last year in their first season back in the Premier Division but with the loss of McClean, Zayed and Lafferty and a reduced budget this year it will be tough for Declan Devine’s men to compete at the top. There are still quite a few top players at Derry this year and trips to the Brandywell are always enjoyable but never easy.

Final Prediction: 6th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Simon Madden - signed for Derry from Dundalk after he had an excellent season last year. Played in our first game ever game in Tallaght and if we didn't sign Gilbert he may have made a return this season. Good attacking full back who will provide a tough challenge for most LoI wingers.

Drogheda United
Mick Cooke worked miracles to keep Drogheda up last year after it had looked like they were set for the drop but a combination of being well organised and Galways poor form they ended the season well above the drop zone. This year will be about consolidating again Mick Cooke has signed well bringing in 5 players from his ex club Monaghan and it looks like a much stronger team this year. Special mention and best wishes to Drogheda left winger Philly Hand who is brother of our very own Trim Hoop Andrew ‘Giggsy’ Hand!

Final Prediction: 7th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Mark O'Brien - began his LoI career with us and disappointed a lot of fans by leaving to join Bohs, has really fell from grace since that early promise but will be a key player for Drogheda.

Last season early promise under Ian Foster faded away with a poor second half of the season. Another club who have drastically cut their budget and new manager Sean McCaffrey will have to rely on youth this season and it could be a steep learning curve for the young players, luckily McCaffrey’s experience should be enough to keep them in the division.

Final Prediction: 9th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Darren Stapleton, hardly a household name to many Rovers fans but after his brief spell with us 2008 he went on to play non-league in England and then America and is now back in league with Dundalk.

Monaghan United
Back in the top flight after a 10 year absence, Roddy Collins team were the surprise package last season in the First Division. They have lost a number of players to ex manager Mick Cooke at Drogheda this year and they will be just aiming to retain their top flight status come October.

Final Prediction: 12th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Robert Bayly – was a last minute Michael O’Neill signing in 2010 and will always be remembered for his late goal at home to Bnei Yehuda but ruined his reputation at Rovers with a poor performance and sending off at UCD in the title run in before a heated exchange with Rovers fans. Ruined it further by signing for Bohs last year and now for Roddy! Has the potential to still be a good player but too temperamental and unreliable.

Great season last year with promotion and a cup final and Shels will be relishing their top flight return. Alan Matthews teams are always very defensive and hard to break down and this Shels team is no different, kept all their key players from last year and have added well to the squad, I think Shels will surprise many and finish in the top half. Special mention and best wishes to Kevin Dawson who is a brother of our very own Trim Hoops Brendan Dawson!

Final Prediction: 5th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Paddy Kavanagh – signed for Rovers from Bray with a big expectation and the winger showed glimpses of class but never commanded a regular starting place. After being left out of a squad by Michael O’Neill last year he claimed: “What a load of me sack” on Twitter and rarely featured for us last season!! Still a Trim Hoops favourite but hopefully he won’t come back to haunt us this year.

Sligo Rovers
Pushed us all the way last season and after 2 FAI Cup triumphs in a row they will have their eye on the league title this year. They have assembled a strong squad but losing Paul Cook just before the start of the season was not ideal and new manager Ian Bariclough will have to hit the ground running if Sligo are to challenge this season. Lack of strength in depth at the back will be their biggest worry this year and any injuries to Peers and McGuinness will see them struggle.
Final Prediction: 2nd  

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Mark Quigley – The former Millwall youngster had a ill fated spell with us where he never seemed like he was even trying and then signed for Pats where he had an excellent season before breaking his leg the following year, has played for Bohs and Dundalk since and now he joins Danny North in a potent Sligo frontline.

St. Patricks Athletic
Liam Buckley will bring an attacking brand of football to Pats this year which they lacked under Peter Mahon and Bucko has put together a strong squad of experience LoI players. They ran out of steam towards the end of last season and will be keen to stay the distance this year but a cup win will be a big aim for them and if coupled with a high league finish it will be a successful first season for Buckley.

Final Prediction: 3rd

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Dean Kelly – scored that all important last minute goal against UCD in the Bowl to secure the 2011 league title for us. Was a fans favourite with his effort and ability but injury prevent us from seeing the best of Deano. Had to move on this year due to work commitments clashing with our training and he will be a key man for Pats this year.

Martin Russell’s young side need to applauded for sticking to their guns last season and continuing to try play football in the right way. This led to a couple of heavy defeats against us and some of the other top teams but the students also showed some real top performances last year and some of their players will no doubt be stars of the future in the league. It will be another struggle this year and success will once again be survival. Special mention and best wishes to Trim lad David O’Connor who is now in his third season at UCD and improving each year, maybe somebody he will become the first Trim Hoop player!

Final Prediction: 10th

Former Hoop that hopefully won't come back to haunt us: Chris Mulhall – ‘Hip’ as he is known to Rovers fans is best known for appearing on the Rovers club texts as injured week on week as a hip injury kept him out for most of his Rovers career. Done well for UCD last season and will be key player in their midfield this season.

Hopefully you have enjoyed our review of our opponents and here is a summary of how we think the table will look at the end of October:

1.      Shamrock Rovers
2.      Sligo Rovers
3.      St. Patricks Athletic
4.      Cork City
5.      Shelbourne
6.      Derry City
7.      Drogheda United
8.      Bohemians
9.      Dundalk
10.  UCD
11.  Bray Wanderers
12.  Monaghan United