Friday Night Lights: League of Ireland Preview
The 2012 League of Ireland season begins in earnest on Friday night with League Champions Shamrock Rovers travelling to Drogheda United to face the Drogs live on TV.
Rovers underwent a transformation over the summer as Michael O'Neill stepped aside to take the Northern Ireland job and former Derry City manager Stephen Kenny stepped in. Kenny has added to the already strong squad that was there and he practically has two teams from which he can select. The Tallaght side are 4/5 to make it three league titles in a row and to be honest, it's hard to see anyone else challenging them.
Sligo Rovers, under new manager, former Scunthorpe gaffer, Ian Baraclough, are probably the main challengers to Shamrock Rovers. Their problem however will be one of consistency, they have a reputation of fading in the last quarter of the season. Bohemians are in the midst of a financial crisis and have lost the backbone of their team, for the first time in years they will most likely finish outside the top three.
Drogheda United v Shamrock Rovers
This may be the best time for Drogheda to play Rovers, the Tallaght side are notoriously slow starters, however Drogheda will be without five key players for the clash. At 3/10 there is no real value backing Rovers, however the value here could be with the hosts. They are no longer the relegation contenders that they used to be and mid-table isn't an unrealistic goal. Drogheda +2 goals at 3/4 could be the bet. Rovers will score for sure but I reckon this game will have goals and both sides to score at 23/20 looks good while over 3.5 at 2/1 could be worth a punt
St Patricks Athletic v Bray
Bray were the surprise package of the 2011 season but they haven't really strengthened their squad too much in the summer and could struggle this season. Going to Richmond Park to face Pats on the opening night will be tough and I expect the home side to do the business here. But once again, 4/9, is a bit short for a single, so 6/5 -1 goal it is for me. I think the home side will look to start well and could go in ahead at half time, so either backing them to win the first half at 17/20 or the double result of St Pats/St Pats at Even money is worth a shot. I also think the visitors will struggle to score and at 13/10 Pats to win to nil is something worth considering.
Derry v Bohemians
Bohemians begin what is likely to be an arduous season at the Brandywell, not an easy place to go. Derry City, under new manager Declan Devine, did slump last season when James McClean left, but they may have replaced the Premier League star with the exciting Patrick McEleney. Although the Bohs squad will be almost entirely new, I don't expect them to just roll over and die. Derry to win by one goal at 9/4 looks good. I don't expect the Candystripes to lose, but I don't envisage them running away with it.
UCD v Cork City
Newly promoted Cork City are expected to do well this season and travel to a UCD side who have only lost three of the team who finished so impressively last season. Unfortunately for the Students, their losses are to key players. First Division Champions Cork are being tipped for a top half finish and have assembled a strong squad, but the upset of the night could come here. 14/5 about a home win seems quite big. 2/1 Draw no bet could be a worthwhile investment. The games involving UCD tend to feature goals, Cork City aren't shy in front of goal either and over 3.5 goals at 11/4 is something to be looked at.
Shelbourne v Sligo Rovers
A big night at Tolka Park is expected as Shelbourne end a five year absence from top flight football and with Sligo Rovers providing opposition this could be the game of the night. Alan Mathews has slowly assembled a squad which narrowly missed out on the First Division title last season and there is a sense of optimism surrounding the club. Sligo have only just appointed a new manager who is relatively unfamiliar with the LOI. Sligo are arguably one of the best sides in the league but I think with a new manager settling in this could be a draw at 11/5. You can back Shelbourne and the draw double chance at 8/13. Correct score of 1-1 is 6/1. This is also a repeat of the Cup final last season where Rovers claimed the cup after a scrappy game.
Monaghan v Dundalk
The third promoted side Monaghan start their campaign at home to a Dundalk side who are expected to struggle this season. The Mons were pillaged over the close season, losing some of their best players to Drogheda United. The Lilywhites have a new management team in place and a new sponsor and a relatively new squad but I suspect they may not exactly be ready and a draw here is quite a possibility. The draw is currently an 11/5 shot, but you can back Monaghan or draw double chance at 6/10. I reckon this will be very tight and the double result of draw/draw at 15/4 is well worth consideration.