herald

Friday 15 December 2017

THEY have had their spell in the shadows, but Shamrock Rovers captain Conor Kenna is eager to see his side move back centre stage and prove they are capable of a real title challenge this season.

THEY have had their spell in the shadows, but Shamrock Rovers captain Conor Kenna is eager to see his side move back centre stage and prove they are capable of a real title challenge this season.

There will be an unusually intense focus on Tallaght Stadium tonight as Cork City take on the Hoops, the game of more interest than usual to those outside the LOI family as it's been billed as the battle of the ex-internationals - Liam Miller and Colin Healy in the Cork side up against the Stephen McPhail/Keith Fahey axis for the Hoops.

Veteran defender Kenna is less interested in sideshows for the neutrals than the main aim of having a real stab at honours. while glad that the Hoops will be in Europe this year, Kenna admits that "back door" qualification was not ideal. Most pre-season predictions cast Rovers as outsiders in the title race, with Dundalk, Cork and St Pats all deemed more of a threat, and former Saints man Kenna wants his current employers to make a mockery of those predictions.

"People can say what they want at the start of the season, it's where you are on the final day of the season that counts, hopefully we are up there at the end of the year," Kenna told The Herald.

"People outside of the club might see us as underdogs or outsiders but we don't think like that, we fancy our chances this season.

"No one was really tipping us to win the title. Dundalk had a good season last year and they're going to try and win it again, they have added to their squad and they seem to be favourites.

"A club like Rovers should be in Europe every year. The way we got into Europe last year wasn't the way you'd like to qualify, but we are there. We had a lot of new faces in the side last year and we didn't have the consistency we needed. This year, players are more settled and we seem to have that consistency already. Now we have to push on and win things.

"Pat has built a squad capable of winning the league and we have to go on and prove that we can do it," added Kenna.

statement

Rovers struggled against Cork last season, unable to get even a point in three league meetings, and Kenna feels his side can make a statement tonight.

"Everyone wants to lay down a marker in every game. Cork are flying after their win last week and they are a good side, but we want to just keep winning games," stressed Kenna, who is relishing the chance to work under Pat Fenlon for a full season at last.

"I have worked with Pat before here and there. When I first came back from England, to Shels, Pat was there and I was with him in the Ireland U23 squad as well. Pat is a winner, he demands nothing but the best from his players, he has very high standards and as one of his players you have to live up to them or you're out of the side."

Cork come to Dublin hoping to keep up that recent record against the Hoops.

"They have done a lot of work in the close-season and there is a lot of talk about Rovers," says manager John Caulfield.

"They've won their first two games and there is huge expectation there. It will be a huge challenge, Rovers will be favourites, but at the same time, we played them three times in the league last season, once when Pat was in charge, and we won all three."

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