Pete Mahon’s new-look Drogheda United begin life in the First Division as they host Roddy Collins’ Waterford United on Friday evening.
A 5-3 defeat in Tallaght against Shamrock Rovers in October, on the last day of the 2015 season, relegated the Boynesiders to the First Division. Remarkably, the only time Drogheda were bottom of the Premier Division table last season was following that defeat.
Much has changed since then and despite having a squad of 28 players, Lloyd Buckley, Mark O’Brien, Sean Thornton, Sean Brennan and Liam Donnelly are the only senior players from last season who remain as part of the 2016 squad. The rest of the side is made up of 18 new signings and five players who have been promoted from Drogheda’s U19 squad.
Speaking to droghedaunited.ie, Mahon expressed his excitement ahead of the new season and his first proper league game in charge of Drogheda.
“I can’t wait to get going tomorrow night, I still get excited at this stage of my career to be starting a new season and I’m really looking forward to my first official home game in charge of the club.”
Mahon also said that he expects Waterford, having signed a number of experienced players recently, to finish higher up the table than their seventh place finish last season.
“I wasn’t expecting much from Waterford up until a few weeks ago but in the meantime they’ve signed some really experienced players who can prove to be key for them.
“I know, like ourselves, they didn’t have the best of seasons last year but I think Roddy was working with someone else’s group of players and he’ll now have his own stamp on the side so I would expect them to finish much higher up the table.”
Drogheda will, however, have to plan without four players for this game as Marc Griffin and Lloyd Buckley are set to miss out through injury while Sean Thornton and Stephen Dunne are suspended.
Thornton serves his suspension following a red card in the final day defeat to Shamrock Rovers last season while Dunne saw red in Athlone’s 3-1 victory over Cabinteely on the final of day of the First Division last season.
“I think the bookies have us down as favourites but that doesn’t mean anything, we’re not in a position to underestimate anyone and you have to earn the right to play football. Our home form was abysmal last year and that has to change this time around.
“We’re missing a few bodies tomorrow night but the most important thing is that we’ll have 11 good players on the pitch who’ll be willing to give their all to make sure we start off with a win.”
Drogheda and Waterford last faced each other in a competitive fixture in 2007, the year Drogheda won the Premier Division and Waterford were relegated via the play-offs. Since then, the two sides have played each other just once, in a pre-season friendly in January of 2014, a game Drogheda comfortably won 6-2.
Waterford finished seventh in the First Division last season, just a point ahead of newcomers to the league, Cabinteely, and nine points behind the next best side, Cobh Ramblers.
The Blues suffered a number of heavy defeats during pre-season, but quoted on Extratime.ie ahead of the game, manager Roddy Collins said that results in pre-season mean nothing to him.
“Results mean nothing in pre-season to me and it’s now all down to the opening game of the season against Drogheda United, which is going to be a massive game for us all. I know in my mind where I stand and who’ll be starting but things can change before Friday comes.
“The training in pre-season has been brilliant and Aaron O’Callaghan has been a breath of fresh air to the players. He has come into the club with some great ideas that have made sense. The players have brought into his ideas and they’ve been great.”
The Blues, who yesterday announced the signing of David O’Leary, will be without Roddy Collins Jnr through illness while Jimmy Dermody is doubtful with a hamstring injury.
Injured: Marc Griffin, Lloyd Buckley.
Suspended: Sean Thornton, Stephen Dunne.
Injured: Roddy Collins Jnr (illness).
Doubtful: Jimmy Dermody (hamstring).
Last Two Meetings
Friendly, 31 Jan 2014: Drogheda United 6-2 Waterford United.
League, 26 Oct 2007: Waterford United 1-1 Drogheda United.
Drogheda United 8/11, Draw 11/4, Waterford United 15/4.
United Park, 7:45pm.
Gerard Grimes, Pundit Arena