- Thursday February 17th, 2022 @ 13:15
Preview: Shels Vs Saints (18/02/22)
81 days after that dramatic FAI Cup Final win, a new season is on the horizon as the SSE Airtricity League is back.
The 2022 season is promising to be one of the most exciting in years.
All eyes will be on Tolka Park on Friday night as St Patrick's Athletic and Shelbourne renew their Dublin derby rivalry.
The Saints will be hoping to build on the highs of 2021 after FAI Cup success and a second place league finish.
Manager Tim Clancy has assembled a strong squad, with nine new faces hoping to make their league debuts.
Opposition Watch and Recent Meetings
Newly promoted Shelbourne impressed last season in the First Division as they bounced straight back up following their relegation in 2020.
Former Ireland international Damien Duff will take charge of Shelbourne for the first time in a competitive game, with ex Saints Brendan Clarke, Conor Kane, JJ Lunney and Shane Griffin among Duff's squad.
The sides last met in the league in 2020 when a Chris Forrester rocket and a Rory Feely header ensured a 2-0 win for the home side at Richmond.
The last match at Tolka Park saw Shelbourne pick up the points in a 1-0 win.
View From The Dugout
Tim Clancy is expecting a huge challenge tomorrow night:
"Three of the first four league matches are Dublin derbies, with Shelbourne first up on Friday night.
It's a sellout and we are expecting a massive atmosphere. It's Damien Duff's first competitive game as a manager as well so we are really looking forward to that and it's live on the television as well.
We watched them live against Drogheda and UCD and I've watched them in a couple of other games as well, so we know it's going to be a very difficult game.
It's going to be a brilliant atmosphere and there is a buzz about the place as well so it's a brilliant game to start the season off with."
Midfielder Jamie Lennon was one of the FAI Cup heroes last November, the 23-year-old made his 100th league appearance in the last league game of the 2021 season away to Waterford and is looking forward to a 5th season in the famous red and white:
"It's a really new group with a lot of new players have come in. We had a brilliant year last year but I think we need to put that behind us now and focus on this one.
It's quite an exciting season. I've been impressed with the players who have come in and gelled into the dressing room very quickly.
Pre-season has been tough, as you can expect but it has been good, and I think lads are just itching to get going now with some competitive games."
So what is Lennon expecting from tomorrow's Dublin derby?
"It's going to be a tough game. They are obviously coming up from the First Division and all eyes will be on Tolka with Damien Duff taking his first game in charge, but we will be ready.
Based on the President's Cup performance, there's a lot of positives to take from it so we will be going into that game with a lot of confidence, and we will try do our best to win."
Anto Breslin is settling in well to life as a Saint having signed from Bohemians in December.
Having turned 25 on Sunday, 'Breso' is hoping to continue a good week with a victory at Tolka, in the first of 16 Dublin derbies for St Pat's this season:
"We are feeling good. Last Friday against Shamrock Rovers was a good test for us and we played really well, so I think that will set us up nicely now to face Shelbourne.
The derbies are the games you want to play in. You saw how good the atmosphere was in Tallaght last week, it was absolutely electric and I'm sure it will be the same in Tolka this weekend.
Friday is a big occasion for both clubs, and it's the first night of the season. We will not be underestimating them, we've prepared well, I think it will be a really good, intense game."
Team News: Paddy Barrett and Ronan Coughlan are recovering well from their respective injuries while Adam Murphy and Sam Curtis are available for selection again having missed last week's game in Tallaght due to international duty.
Watch: The game will be live on RTE2 with coverage starting at 7.30pm, all away tickets are sold out.
Updates: You can catch updates across all of our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
Photo credit: Sportfile