With Saturday’s kick-off fast approaching there will be much debate over Sligo Rovers starting line-up against Shamrock Rovers.
For last year’s opener against Cork City, our reporter Alan Finn gave his prediction, getting nine out of 11 correct. He is back with his 2016 prediction, hoping for a full house on this occasion.
Despite being impressed by the performances of Ciaran Nugent, I suspect Dave Robertson will stand by his earlier statement of Michael Schlingermann being his preferred number one. His league experience for such an important game also swings this decision.
Right-back was a tough call last season, and this year has proven to be no easier. Tobi Adebayo-Rowling and Gary Boylan have both shown the often similar strengths of their play during pre-season, but I suspect the ex-Peterborough Utd man will get the nod.
He was pivotal in Rovers survival in 2015, Clancy will now be looked to as a key player in the club’s revival. Clancy looks to have picked up from where left off last season by turning in some rock solid performances in defence and also demonstrated a previously unexpected ability as a free-kick taker.
The former UCD man has looked sharp upon his arrival at The Showgrounds and there are early signs of a very reliable partnership being formed with Clancy which stalwart Gavin Peers will need to be on top of his game to break up this year.
An obvious choice, Donelon is the club’s only recognised left-back, but is quickly proving to be a reliable one. Donelon’s form after returning from his loan at Finn Harps last year was one of the highlight’s season and 2016 will prove to be an important one in his development.
A no-nonsense midfielder who won’t hesitate to win possession with a hard-hitting slide tackle or two probably best describes the Danny Ventre-esque Roddan. The ex-Liverpool trainee is likely to sit in the hole and offer an extra layer of the defence while also proving to have the capacity to deliver defence-splitting passes on the break.
An exciting talent, Richards has been impressive in pre-season. The Notts County loanee is a very tidy midfielder and is likely to have a bit more freedom to roam while Roddan holds the fort deep in midfield.
Despite only being in his mid-20s, Keohane brings a wealth of experience to this team having played over 100 games across the 3rd, 4th and 5th tiers of English football in recent years. The former Exeter City man also has an eye for goal and isn’t afraid to run at defences.
The standout player of pre-season, Sadlier will no doubt be earmarked as The Bit O’Red’s key man on Saturday. The winger’s ability to take on players could trouble the best of defenders. He also has looks to be a very tireless worker and is a capable free-kick and penalty taker.
Despite arriving late in pre-season, you get the sense that Robertson has plans for the forward from the get go. The striker looks lively and willing to contribute to every attack. Despite his limited game time in recent memory, he looks relatively fit and ready going into the new season.
Gordon will probably be looked to as the main source of goals for Rovers this season. Despite his young age, Gordon has shown in pre-season that he has the presence of mind the make the right runs and be in the right place to pounce on mistakes, as seen on more than occasion against Derry City in pre-season.