Shelbourne -v- Derry CityThu, Mar 15 2012
Four points from two tough matches is the sort of start that most people hadn't predicted for this Shels side. Alan Mathews' team almost came away from their first match against Sligo Rovers with a win, and last week saw the Reds win comprehensively in Dalymount Park.
Players like Philly Hughes and Glen Cronin have impressed so far, with Shels sitting in fourth place on goal difference. While not many people expect them to stay there, the Reds can be very happy with their efforts so far.
Alan Mathews has been pleased with his side's efforts so far, but doesn't expect it to get any easier. “It's a great challenge for us to see how we can adapt to this league. There's no lead-in period, you're straight into it."
“Our objective last year was to get promoted to the Premier Division. You want to be playing Rovers, Bohs, Sligo and Derry”.
Their results so far are all the more impressive when you consider the players that have been missing. David Cassidy, Kevin Dawson and Stephen Paisley could all potentially return this week to face Derry. Paul Byrne will have to wait a while longer for his debut though as the ex-Pat's striker is still out through injury.
Sitting atop the Premier Division table is the place Derry City fans would love to stay, and their form so far suggests that a fruitful season could well be ahead for the Candystripes. The side looks like it is settled, with players like Stuart Greacen ensuring that City are always a tough side to beat.
And they aren't bad in attack, either. Five goals in their two games so far tells a story of a strike force rapidly gaining in potency. Rory Patterson looks like he could become one of the leagues most lethal finishers.
Tuesday's Setanta Cup quarter-final against Linfield may be looming, but Declan Devine, speaking to the Derry Journal, insisted that his side will be completely focused on the challenge of Shels this Friday.
"I haven't heard Linfield even mentioned in training this week," he said. "For us it is very much a case of one match at a time. We're talking about facing a decent Shelbourne side on Friday night, that's the priority."
"It's great to see Shelbourne back in the top flight of Irish football and given their opening two results, they've certainly raised quite a few eyebrows. Alan Mathews has signed quite a few decent players so we'll need to be at ourselves if we're to get anything out of the game."
Derry haven't lost to Shelbourne since 2006, with the odds reflecting their status as favourites. Another win would put them in a prime position ahead of their next three league matches, all eminently winnable, against Cork City, Drogheda United and UCD.
Referee: Padraigh Sutton.
2006 was the last time Shels beat Derry, with City winning 2-1 the last time they were in Tolka Park, in their promotion-winning 2010 First Division season. In that same season, the Candystripes beat Shels 1-0 and 3-0 in the Brandywell.
Declan Devine's team are one of two Premier Division sides, St Pat's being the other, who haven't conceded a goal in their opening two matches.
Five of Shelbourne's last ten competitive matches have been decided by two goals or more. Four of the last ten Shels-Derry encounters have also been decided by two goals or more.
Paddy Power Odds: Shelbourne 21/10; Draw 21/10; Derry City 13/10.
Shels could potentially shock the Candystripes, but I fancy an away victory here. 2-1 to Derry.
Shelbourne Injury News: Paul Byrne.
Shelbourne Suspension News: None.
Derry City Injury News: Patrick McEleney, Kevin Deery.
Derry City Suspension News: None.
Niall Farrell is our correspondent at Tolka Park, covering the goings-on at Shelbourne. You can visit Niall's website for further information and contact details- niallf.net.