Rovers close to full strength
Sligo Rovers manager Ian Baraclough has revealed he has close to a full squad to choose from for Sunday’s Presidents Cup match with St Patrick’s Athletic.
The Rovers boss was speaking at the launch of the 2014 SSE Airtricity League at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin this morning where he revealed his opinion that the new league could be the best competition he has been involved in since he joined Rovers three years ago.
Sunday’s game in Richmond Park will be the second match of the week for Rovers following the 4-1 Setanta Sports Cup win over Crusaders in Seaview last Monday.
Reflecting on that victory, Baraclough said he was satisfied with the position created for the second leg in The Showgrounds on March 10.
He stated: “I was pleased with the result for sure. You're not sure what sort of team the opposition were going to put out.
“It was part of the pre-season preparation and seven or eight players got 90 minutes under their belts which was pleasing too.
“We didn't pick up any injuries and it's obviously good to bring Crusaders back with a 4-1 lead.”
That performance saw the Bit o’ Red create many goal-scoring opportunities as well as improving in their general play throughout the 90 minutes.
With four friendlies and a Setanta Sports match under their belts prior to this Sunday’s game, the manager said the President’s Cup is the final pre-season chapter for his side.
“You can always be better (fitness wise). That sharpness and understanding will come and it will grow.
“This game will be a good barometer as to where we are at for this stage. Again the result isn't the be all and end all but we'd like to win it for the sake of getting an early trophy.
“I think six weeks is a good time for the duration of pre-season. It gives players the right amount of time that they don't go into the first game of the season thinking that they have been here for half the season already.
“We've made sure we have had enough game time - we only missed one because of the weather with the postponement against Longford - so I think we're not too far away."
Danny North trained on Friday ahead of Sunday’s game and is in contention to play against the Saints. Kieran Djilali is recovering from a knee injury but remains doubtful. Gavin Peers is out with a long-term knee injury.
With 20 senior players signed for 2014, along with Jake Dykes and Gary Boylan now on professional terms following their promotion from the Under-19 side, Baraclough will have some decisions to make in choosing his first XI for next week's league opener with Athlone.
Last Monday night Eric Odhiambo bagged a hat-trick against Cruasders, while fellow debutant Sean Maguire made a lively substitute appearance and with North available again, the attacking roles are just one area that brings about competition and choices for the manager.
“It's the reason we have brought the quality into the squad and hopefully they can all push each other throughout the season to great achievements,” concluded the Rovers boss.
“At this early stage we make sure we look after ourselves and we go into first game with Athlone with everyone having a clean bill of health and firing on cylinders.”
The 2014 season was launched at the Aviva Stadium by the FAI and SSE Airtricity this morning with news of a joint-marketing campaign which focuses on the availability of live football in Ireland using the slogan 'Powering Live Football'.
It will involve using the hashtag #lovelivefootball on social media platforms when referencing the league.
Baraclough concluded: “I think the way it is being publicised and marketed, I think this year has got the potential to be one of the best seasons since I have been here. The league can grow.
“I think it's a very good product. The league is getting better and it is our jobs as managers and custodians of clubs involved in it to make sure it is a product people enjoy to come and watch.”
President's Cup: St Patrick's Athletic v Sligo Rovers, this Sunday 2 March, Richmond Park, Inchicore, kick-off 4pm.
Tickets for Sligo Rovers supporters are available from The Showgrounds on Thursday and Friday until 5pm and on turnstiles in Richmond for €15 for adults, €10 students and OAPs and €5 children.