Dundalk v Sligo Rovers, LOI

Chris Shields will continue to anchor Dundalk's midfield this season. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

John Curtis looks forward to Dundalk and Sligo’s season opener at Oriel Park, Fri 15 Feb, RTE2 7:45pm

Off Season:

The off season for both teams have been somewhat similar.

Dundalk lost their manager Stephen Kenny to the Ireland U21’s before getting the senior gig down the line.

However it hasn’t really been all that bad with them keeping a hold of Vinny Perth, Ruaidhri Higgins and adding experienced coach John Gill to the management team who previously had a stint in Oriel Park when getting them promoted to the premier division.

Dundalk have lost Gabriel Sava, Dylan Connolly, Georgie Poynton, Sam Byrne , Ronan Murray , Karolis Chevdukas  and Stephen O’Donnell (Retired) to note a few.

But for Dundalk it isn’t all departures on the transfer front. They’ve taken in Aaron McCarey, Jordan Flores, Sean Murray, Dano Kelly all of whom are vastly experienced.

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Sligo Rovers lost their manager Gerard Lyttle near the end of last season, when a string of results started to go completely against his side. There was talks of the board sticking with him and giving him the backing but that wasn’t to be when results and form started to dip even lower.

They have hired experienced manager Liam Buckley to their helm having won nearly everything domestically in his previous jobs, Sporting Fingal, and St Patrick’s Athletic of recent years.

Sligo Rovers have lost Mikey Drennan, Rhys McCabe, Raffaele Cretaro and Gary Boylan, Patrick McClean who all played a massive part in Sligo Rovers season last year.

Sligo have added highly rated and experienced defender Johnny Dunleavy to their ranks signing the Donegal man from Cork City. They’ve also signed wide man Daryl Fordyce who brings some experience to the plate having previously played up north with Linfield and Glentoran.

Possibly their best piece of business in the window was Ronan Murray signing from the champions Dundalk. He’ll add great energy, flair, and goals to their squad for the 2019 season.

Form:

The only form we have going for the opening night of the season is the pre-season form over the last three to four weeks.

Dundalk have played five games in pre-season, starting from where they left off last season with a win. In those five games Dundalk have scored 12 goals conceding 8.

One of the notable results came last week beating Cork City 2-1 away from home in the Presidents Cup with Dane Massey and Patrick Hoban netting in the first half to silence the home crowd.

Sligo Rovers have played a handful of games in pre-season.

The two of note came against Galway and Athlone, both away, winning both 3-0 and 4-0 in the order of games mentioned. The other games in pre-season came against non-league teams or below average sort of teams not to be too disrespectful to the opponents.

The Match:

Opening night of the season can be hard to predict in terms of what type of game it’s going to be.

Teams could be cagey on the basis of ensuring a solid start to the campaign.

For me this game won’t be anything like that, the two teams will surely be going to win it.

You don’t consider Dundalk a team to go and settle for anything less than three points on the night, and their free flowing football is a joy to watch when the passing game is on point.

For Sligo, this will all be about giving a good account of themselves and doing manager Liam Buckley proud on the night.

Their manager is renowned for having his teams set up well in a disciplined way. A team that like to get the ball down and play on the deck and create plenty of chances and cause oppositions problems whenever they feel like they can.

Verdict:

My Prediction for this game is going to be a home win for the champions to kick start their season a little better than last year.

I do think Sligo will provide a couple of nervy and anxious moments for the home faithful in what should be a packed Oriel Park.

But Dundalk should be able to weather the storm and overcome a Sligo team in transition.

Dundalk to win 2-0 at 9/2



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