Donall Farmer/INPHO
LOI Kick-off

5 reasons why you should be watching the League of Ireland this weekend

The domestic league season kicks off tonight and we’ve picked out the big talking points for you to track on opening weekend.

1. Cork line up for first shot at the champions

BEFORE THE FIRST ball of the new season is kicked, St Pat’s fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic. With the exception of Conor Kenna, the Saints have managed to keep the bulk of their title-winning side together which can only be a good thing.

Oh, and they’ve signed Keith Fahey.

But the danger of being champions is that every opponent will treat it like a cup final, determined to take you down a peg or two. Cork have even more of an incentive tonight with the return of one of their own club legends, John Caulfield, to the dugout.

While Pat’s have been involved in the Setanta Sports Cup and President’s Cup over the last 10 days, Cork’s focus has been singular.

“We’ve been preparing for this game for the last two weeks,” Caulfield said. “Our tactics have been geared towards it.”

Let’s see if it pays off.

2. Unfinished business as Louth neighbours meet

The last time Dundalk and Drogheda met, Stephen Kenny was so incensed by the referee’s performance that he threatened to pull his side off the pitch and go home.

That frustration — as well as two red cards in the first half — was Dundalk’s undoing and Richie Towell knows that they need to keep their emotions in check when the always spicy rivalry resumes tonight.

John Sullivan, Richie Towell and Andy Boyle react to the second sending off Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“We have to taper it down on the emotional side but that won’t stop us from going to get the right result. We’ll go out and do our best to win. You always want to win the derby.”

After losing to Coleraine in the Setanta Sports Cup first leg, Dundalk will want a positive result before the ‘difficult’ second season narrative takes hold for 2013′s surprise package.

3. Limerick’s Spanish mission more than fun in the sun

Of all the locations for pre-season training, Limerick’s camp in Bilbao last week must be the most exotic.

The Blues lost their two friendlies against Athletic Bilbao B and Amorbieta but the games gave manager Stuart Taylor an opportunity to do his last bits of fine-tuning.

Taylor described the games as “an education” and we’ll see just how much Limerick learned when they welcome Bray, under new management in Alan Mathews, to Thomond Park tonight.

4. TV cameras head to Tallaght

The first televised game of the new league campaign comes on Sunday evening when Shamrock Rovers welcome Roddy Collins and Derry City to Tallaght Stadium.

Shamrock Rovers supporters Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

It’s the first of five live games that RTÉ Two have lined up over the first five weekends of the season, a run that sees Rovers, Pat’s and Derry all feature twice with Cork, Limerick, Sligo and Dundalk getting air time as well.

There’ll be plenty of interest on Monday night too as the new ‘Soccer Republic’ show, which replaces MNS, makes its debut at 11.05pm on RTÉ Two.

5. Presidential appointment as football returns to Eamonn Deacy Park

The league’s newest club get down to competitive action tonight as Galway FC welcome First Division favourites Longford Town out west.

After taking in the inaugural President’s Cup in Inchicore last weekend, Michael D Higgins will be in Eamonn Deacy Park on a historic night for Tommy Dunne’s side.

There will be history made in St Colman’s Park as well as Cobh Ramblers welcome Colin Hawkins and Shamrock Rovers ‘B’ for their first league game tomorrow night.

SSE Airtricity League fixtures (all kick-offs Friday 7.45pm unless stated)

Premier League

  • Cork City v St Patrick’s Athletic
  • Drogheda United v Dundalk
  • Limerick v Bray Wanderers
  • UCD v Bohemians
  • Sligo Rovers v Athlone Town (Saturday 7.45pm)
  • Shamrock Rovers v Derry City (Sunday 5.25pm – live on RTÉ Two)

First Division

  • Galway FC v Longford Town
  • Finn Harps v Waterford United (Friday 8pm)
  • Shelbourne v Wexford Youths (Friday 8pm)
  • Cobh Ramblers v Shamrock Rovers B (Saturday 7.45pm)

Mark Quigley: ‘I was jumping around my house like a fan when Keith Fahey signed’

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