By Ed Leahy
St Patrick’s Day came two days early for Shamrock Rovers and now the Hoops face their second Dublin derby of the Bank Holiday weekend as they travel to Dalymount to take on Bohemians on Monday, kick-off 2pm.
Rovers enjoyed a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Liam Buckley’s St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night at Tallaght Stadium and now travel to Phibsboro to take on rivals Bohemians in Monday's only Airtricity League Premier Division clash.
It’s a Bank Holiday bonus for the fervent fans of both Dublin clubs as the sides come face to face at such an early stage of the season.
And it’s Rovers who will come into the game full of confidence following their facile victory over the much-fancied Saints on Friday night.
The Gypsies, on the other hand, were unable to bring their opening weekend form with them to Cork on Friday night and suffered a 2-1 defeat at Turner’s Cross.
That defeat and the long round-trip to Cork will have hampered, both physically and mentally, Bohs’ preparations for this clash with Rovers and will need to hit the ground running on Monday against a squad that, on paper, is much stronger throughout the park.
But the youthful and relatively inexperienced Bohs side rose to that challenge last season, beating Rovers twice, notably 4-0 at Dalymount, and will relish another chance to get one over their city rivals at the Home of Irish Football.
“After our 3-0 win over St Pat’s on Friday night, confidence is high among the players and they’re all looking forward to the game." - Croly
The strength and depth of Rovers squad is designed for scenarios such at this, as manager Trevor Croly has to send out a team to face Bohs, just 64 hours after the final whistle on Friday night.
And the new Hoops boss is likely to make several changes from the side that beat St Pat’s on Friday.
One of those changes is likely to be new Rovers signing Mark Quigley who has returned from injury and is available for selection, while Stephen Rice, Billy Dennehy, Conor McCormack and Tommy Stewart are just some of the quality personnel that Croly has to choose from should he wish to make changes.
Captain Pat Sullivan is a slight doubt with a dead leg, while Jason McGuinness (ankle) and Ronan Finn (calf) will both face fitness tests before the game.
Hoops boss, Croly said: “After our 3-0 win over St Pat’s on Friday night, and the manner of the performance, confidence is high among the players and they’re all looking forward to the game.
“But it’s another big test for us, just as Friday’s night was. It’s a big game for the fans too, and as a Dublin derby I’m sure the support will be great on the day.”
The Gypsies will be without midfielder Dave Mulcahy who is still struggling with an ankle injury, while centre back Stephen Paisley and the versatile Kevin Devaney are doubts through illness.
Otherwise, Callaghan expects his squad to be at full strength and is also likely to make changes after such a short turnaround from Friday’s away trip to The Cross.
Bohs’ boss Aaron Callaghan couldn’t fault his side’s performance in Cork, where Owen Heary's header was cancelled out by two second-half strikes.
Callaghan said: "I thought it was a good performance overall. Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted. The intensity they came out with in the second half, we couldn’t cope with it. We conceded two sloppy goals. But we got back into the game in the last 15 to 20 minutes so I was delighted with the performance individually and collectively."
And looking ahead to Monday’s clash with arch rivals Rovers, Callaghan added: "It’s not just a game; it’s a big Dublin Derby against our biggest rivals.
“Last year we were set up quite well for those games but we definitely need to perform at our best to get a result. They’ve started the season well so it’s a good test for us – but it’s one we’re looking forward to.
"They (the players) know the importance of the game for themselves first of all, but also for the fans. They need to make sure they put in a performance individually, and then collectively I think we’ll be good."
Monday’s Dublin derby is only the third league game of the season, yet Rovers already appear to be in fine fettle, thanks to four competitive Setanta Sports Cup fixtures, where they scored nine goals to add to Friday’s three at Tallaght Stadium.
A mid-season clash after a week’s rest would give the Gypsies a fighting chance against this Hoops squad, but three days after a gruelling defeat at Turner’s Cross, it would appear that this Dublin derby will be favouring the green and white areas of the capital come 4pm on Monday.
Verdict: Shamrock Rovers