We are finally underway, after Friday’s President’s Cup victory for Dundalk over Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium. The curtain-raiser victory for the 2020 FAI Cup winners over last term’s League champions came via a penalty shootout after a 1-1 game.
Dundalk, who have appeared in every President’s Cup game since 2015 [there was none last year], will take some hope for the new campaign from the win. It will be difficult for anyone to dislodge Rovers from the top of the table, but not impossible. Bohemians will certainly put it up to them after last season’s second-place finish, and Dundalk will be anxious to maintain their status as one of the country’s top sides.
Rovers certainly come into the campaign in a strong position. Stephen Bradley’s men will be taking nothing for granted, but the statistics from last term make impressive reading: seven successive victories, an 18-game unbeaten run and the season’s biggest win [6-0 over a doomed Cork].
Dundalk for their part entertained us with their European involvement and had the Premier Division’s top scorer in Patrick Hoban, who pipped Rovers’ Jack Byrne and Graham Burke for the golden boot.
Talking of Europe, 2021-22 [it being the next season in Europe, as opposed to 2021 here] will see the return of a third major European competition, with the launch of the Europa Conference League, for which Bohemians, Dundalk and Sligo Rovers have qualified.
As part of a generation that grew up with the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup, it’s great to see UEFA’s suite of competitions expanded again. Shamrock Rovers of course will play in the 2021-22 flagship competition, the Champions League.
European games are a long way away though. When the action kicks off next Friday and Saturday everyone will be anxious to be quick out of the blocks. Drogheda, returning to the top tier, will host Waterford. Longford, who also came up from the 2020 First Division, will host Derry City. There’s a Dublin derby at Tallaght as St Patrick’s Athletic travel the short distance from Inchicore to play Shamrock Rovers. Dublin’s other top-tier side, Bohemians, travel up north to face Ollie Horgan’s Finn Harps, while Sligo Rovers host Dundalk.
The moment has finally arrived. I wish you and your club an enjoyable and successful campaign. Collectively we need to stick together as clubs and fans more than ever.