At yesterday’s launch of the SSE Airtricity League we caught up with Shamrock Rovers manager Pat Fenlon to discuss the forthcoming campaign.
Shamrock Rovers begin their season this coming Friday as they play-out the first televised Premier Division clash of the year against St. Pat’s at Tallaght Stadium.
You can listen to the interview here, or read it in full below.
Pre-season is often a time where sides will be sweating on players’ fitness come the first game of the season but for Pat Fenlon’s Shamrock Rovers a full bill of health will be a welcomed positive approaching Friday’s Dublin derby.
“We’ve nobody injured at the moment which is great. Conor Kenna came into pre-season injured from last season but he’s back playing and training so he should get some gametime tonight [Rovers beat Shelbourne 2-1 last night with Kenna playing for the last half hour].”
When asked about losing one of his midfield stars in Ronan Finn, Fenlon was disappointed that the 27-year-old left the club but was equally as positive about his midfield options at present.
“We did our best to keep Ronan, we just couldn’t match what Dundalk gave him so that’s just the way it goes and that’s football…but we’ve got some quality midfielders, it’s not an area of the pitch that I’m overly worried about to be honest.
“It’s probably going to give me more of a headache picking the team [more] than anything in that area of the pitch. We’ve got some good players in there so we feel we’ve got goals in the team and the boys we’ve brought in, we’re very happy with.”
With an abundance of talent returning to the league this year and with many former Irish internationals now playing at the top level of Irish football, the Hoops boss recognised that they still have much to offer the league even at the latter stages of their careers.
“It’s great to see, obviously, [their] quality players and they still have a lot to offer, they’re not coming back and finishing out their careers, they’ve come back with a real hunger to do well.
“Obviously Stephen McPhail and Keith [Fahey] we have, and some of the other boys have come back around…like the boys in Cork [they’re] are all very good players, I mean Colin Healy was fantastic last year, I thought in the league, so it’s great to see quality [in the division].”
“I think we lost a lot of players after that time when we had five or six teams that were full-time. [It was] a very competitive league, a lot of those players got moves across the water and the standard probably dipped a little bit but there’s a lot of good young players in the league as well.”
“It’s important; we talk about the senior players but I think what’s important with senior players, for young players, is that they’re good pros. [That] they teach them good habits both on and off the park and I think in the ones we have back, that is the case.”
The aforementioned quality that’s come into the league during the off-season signals increased competition in 2015. Fenlon was reluctant to pick-out any particular side who he sees as challenging for the title, but rather several.
“I think if you look at it there’s probably realistically four or five teams that are capable of winning this league. I think the two teams from last year [Dundalk & Cork City] will be there again.
“We’re hopeful ourselves, and Pat’s will be there, Sligo have strengthened their squad immensely and you can’t right-off Derry, they’ll always be very competitive.
“I think even if you look at both teams have come up, normally looking at the league the teams that have come up, you’d think they might struggle to stay in it but I don’t think that’ll be the case this year with Longford and Galway.”
Time will tell who will be the main challengers for the title but Rovers begin their quest for their first Premier Division success since 2011 with a testing home tie against Liam Buckley’s St. Patrick’s Athletic this Friday.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena