Stephen Elliott believes Drogheda United have "more than enough quality" to upset the big guns as they look to hit the ground running on their return to the top flight.
The Drogs, who bounced straight back up from relegation with a dramatic play-off success against Wexford Youths last November, start their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division campaign at Galway United tonight.
They’ll also be reacquainted with neighbours Dundalk when the first Louth derby of the season lands at the end of March and Elliott, who has played in some of the fiercest derbies in British football, expects it to be one of the feistiest of his career.
“I love playing in derby games,” the 33-year-old ex-Sunderland, Wolves and Hearts man told RTÉ Sport.
“They’re the things you play football for, big games that you want to be part of. A few of the lads that are working behind the scenes at Drogheda have mentioned it to me, saying nothing has a patch on the Louth derby!
“I’m looking forward to it. History tells you that Dundalk are going to be up there again. They’ve lost two of their better players to Preston in Boyle and Horgan, but they’ve still got a really strong squad.
“We’re just concentrating on ourselves. We know that, in all likelihood, we’re not going to win the league, but I’d like to think we can take points off these top teams because I think there’s more than enough quality in the team to do that.”
Elliott won nine caps for his country, scoring a crucial winner against Cyprus in a 2006 World Cup qualifier.
After a short spell at Shelbourne last year, the Dubliner is desperate to prove he still has performances – and goals – in his locker.
“I’ve managed to get a full pre-season into me, which is something I haven’t done for a long time,” he said.
“I’ve had a good few minutes under my belt so fingers crossed we can get off to a good start.
“After playing in the First Division last year the lads are under no illusions that it’s going to be a little bit more difficult this year. I think there’s a good mixture in the squad now.
“There’s a few experienced lads, including myself, that have come, there’s some really promising young players. I’m hoping for good things season.”