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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Stephen Latimer
# LOI Kick-off
Roddy: We're the strongest team in the league -- but all the pressure is on Rovers today
Roddy Collins returns to Tallaght this evening to take on (one of his many) former clubs, Shamrock Rovers.

RODDY COLLINS FIRED the first shots of the SSE Airtricity League campaign by ramping up the pressure on Shamrock Rovers and manager Trevor Croly.

And before his side have even kicked a ball, Derry City’s new boss declared: “We’re the strongest team in the league.”

The first round of Premier Division fixtures comes to a close this evening as Derry journey south to take on Collins’ former employers, his first return to Tallaght since Monaghan’s ill-fated 2012 campaign.

He told TheScore.ie: “I’m looking forward to the opening game — live on the telly, back in the Premier League, with a very strong squad of players and a very strong club.

“You couldn’t have asked for a better opener.

“All the pressure’s on Rovers for this particular game. Everyone wants a good start to the season and Rovers are no different, but the pressure’s on them on their own patch.”

The goal-hungry Hoops have made a quick start to the new season, putting five past Drogheda in the Leinster Senior Cup and then beating Glentoran 5-1 in the Setanta Sports Cup quarter-finals.

But Collins says his opposite number Croly will still be feeling the heat of a disappointing league run which saw them finish 19 points behind champions St Pat’s and out of the European places.

Conor Kenna with Cliff Byrne Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“There’s huge pressure, massive pressure. Of course there is after last season.

“Shamrock Rovers finishing fifth? Not good enough.”

Derry have recruited some experienced faces in the off-season not least Championship veteran Cliff Byrne and Danny Ventre, who captained Sligo Rovers to both the league and cup titles.

On top of that Collins has the resources of one of the country’s top youth systems and a coaching staff that have helped James McClean and Daniel Lafferty secure moves to England in recent years.

As Cliffy Byrne said, it’s possibly the most professional club he’s been involved with since Sunderland.

“The young kids do Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and play Saturday. The amount of hours they put in on the ball is unbelievable so you can understand.

“They love their club and every kid wants to play for Derry so they put the effort in. There’s a huge amount of talent but there’s no pressure on them. They love it.

“We’ve Josh Tracey over at Manchester United after being at Everton. The two of them are after him.

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Pat McEleney celebrates Morgan Treacy / INPHO Pat McEleney: Collins expects big things this year. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“We’ve Michael Duffy who we’ll probably end up selling. We’ve Patrick McEleney who is looking really lean and he could end up going as well.

“Then coming through the food chain, there are a load of kids coming through as well.”

Add that youth and experience together and you can see why Collins is confident, veering dangerously close to typical bullishness, about Derry’s prospects.

Can we beat any team in the league? Of course we can, no problem.They’re talking about Rovers – nah, don’t fear them. Sligo, Dundalk? We can beat any team on the day.

“Doing that consistently is the trick. That’s how how you build up points and points win leagues.

“Pat’s? It’s very hard to retain a title, they won’t do that. It’s nearly impossible.”

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