It’s first versus third in this early clash of title contenders as Shelbourne host Athlone Town at Tolka Park. The two sides are on equal points with the sides separated on goal difference.
The home side drew their opening game of the season 0-0, at Tolka Park to Finn Harps. They have since followed that up with impressive 1-0 wins away to UCD and Cabinteely respectively. Shels also progressed into the second round of the EA Sports Cup with a fine victory away to Premier Division side Drogheda United. They will be travelling back to Louth in the next round, as they face reigning champions and reigning Premier Division champions, Dundalk.
The visitors also drew their opening fixture of the season after a very late equaliser prevented Athlone coming away with the full three points at Waterford United. The Town went on to win comfortably against Cobh Ramblers, 4-0 and secured a 2-1 victory away to UCD. Athlone crashed out of the EA Sports Cup, losing 3-0 away to an in-form Bohemians’ side.
In the last 10 meetings between the sides, Shelbourne have been victorious seven times, while there have been three draws. Athlone Town will know that defeat here, while still early days, will put them on the back foot on what will be a competitive season ahead.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s game, Shelbourne manager, Kevin Doherty said, “Athlone are a team of quality players. I have watched them and have had them watched. It will be difficult but we feel that we have prepared well for the game and we’re now looking forward to Friday.”
Shelbourne are still without Simon Dixon and Paul Andrews. The former still some weeks away, while Andrews expects to be back in the next two weeks. Dylan McGlade limped out of a friendly against Newbridge Town on Tuesday night with a hamstring injury and will also miss out on Friday. Adam O’Connor did come through that game at Station Road and will be in contention for a starting position against Athlone. Manager, Doherty, has no suspensions to contend with.
The home side will also be without Sean Heaney, who scored the winner against UCD two weeks ago. The on-loan defender is away on international duty with Paul Doolin’s Under 19s in Germany.
Athlone Town have no suspensions but manager, Eddie Wallace, may be without Brian Shortall. The defender is nearing fitness but is still a doubt ahead of the trip to his former club.