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Irish Independent
Irish Independent

Delayed Tallaght return for Shamrock Rovers as season fixture list unveiled

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

CHAMPIONS Shamrock Rovers will host title challengers Derry City in their first home game of 2023 in what already looks like a key date in the new season.

After a drip-feed of fixtures from earlier in the week, the full fixture list for the 2023 campaign was released today.

It was already known that Cork City begin life as a top-fight side again, following promotion, with a game at home to Bohemians on the opening weekend of Friday February 17th, with St Patrick’s Athletic at home to Derry City, Dundalk home to UCD, Drogheda United away to Shelbourne with a clash of the Rovers, Sligo at home to Shamrock Rovers on February 18th.

The Hoops will also be away from home for the second round of games due to building work on the new stand in Tallaght Stadium, so they travel to face Drogheda United and the first Dublin derby of the season is on February 24h, when St Pat’s host old foes Shels.

Round 3 of the league on March 3rd sees the Hoops play at home to the 2022 runners-up Derry while the first series of Monday night games, on March 6th, also has Rovers at home, this time to Cork.

To account for the European calendar in the summer and get in games ahead of a fixture backlog, teams due to play in UEFA competition play on Monday May 15th, when Rovers host St Pat’s and Derry are at home to Dundalk. The sides due to play in Europe have no scheduled league games between July 7th and August 4th, although the first round of the FAI Cup will be played on the weekend of July 23rd.

After round 20 the league sees the traditional mid-season break, with no games between June 9th and June 23rd. The standard league season finishes on November 3rd, with the FAI Cup final down for November 12th.

For the fourth season in a row, the EA Sports Cup, which was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid restrictions after some early rounds had been contested, will not be played, though there will be a League Cup in the Women’s National League.

The 2023 WNL season starts on March 4th, champions Shelbourne at home to Cork City and a new-look Shamrock Rovers away to Sligo Rovers.

The women’s League Cup will be played in June and July, the league resuming on August 19th, as that break in the league season can partly accommodate players who may be on World Cup duty with Vera Pauw’s squad in Australia/New Zealand.

Meanwhile, League One side Oxford United have carried out another raid on the League of Ireland with the capture of Shelbourne defender Stephan Negru.

And he says he hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow LOI graduate Luke McNally, who used Oxford as a route to a £1million move to Championship outfit Burnley.

Negru worked his way into the Shels side late in the 2022 season, impressing in a draw with Finn Harps and he made six league appearances for the Reds, also featuring in an FAI Cup run which ended in a 4-0 loss to Derry City.

Oxford have scouts in Ireland who helped them sign defender McNally from Pat’s and goalkeeper Ed McGinty from Sligo Rovers last year and Negru says their links to Ireland helped make his mind up.

“The whole club has been fantastic with me. I came over to take a look and join training and I was made to feel involved from the very first day. The manager has been excellent and obviously they have a reputation for helping players develop: Luke McNally is a great example of someone who plays in the same position as me,” he told the club’s website. “I know I have a lot to learn but that’s what I am here for and I can’t wait to get started.”

Negru was registered as an amateur with the Reds last season but the club will be entitled to some compensation for the player.

The Moldovan-born, Dublin-raised player is the latest talent to leave the LOI for a UK move since the end of last season, with Ciaran Kelly (Bohemians to Bradford) and Aidomo Emakhu (Shamrock Rovers to Millwall) already completing moves while deals for Shane Blaney (Sligo to Motherwell) and Jamie Mullins (Bohs to Brighton) are due to be finalised.

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