Former winners Shamrock Rovers host Coleraine while high-flying Cliftonville make the trip to Cork as the 2013 Setanta Sports Cup kicks off with four first round ties
By Ryan Kelly
Cork City v Cliftonville
Tommy Dunne's Cork City welcome high-flying Cliftonville to Turners Cross in the first leg of the Setanta Sports Cup first round. Tommy Breslin's side have been in terrific form this season, holding a 12 point lead at the summit of the Irish Premiership. The Reds recently lifted the Irish League Cup after defeating the 2012 Setanta Cup winners Crusaders 4-0 in the final.
The Rebel Army have been drawn against the Reds twice in previous competitions, defeating the North Belfast side twice in their victorious 2008 campaign and once in 2009. Their one and only defeat to Cliftonville came in 2009 as a result of a technicality, arising out of the Leesiders' withdrawal from the competition.
Cliftonville will look to Northern Ireland international Liam Boyce for inspiration against a formidable Cork City outfit. The former Werder Bremen striker currently leads the Reds' goalscoring charts and will pose a threat the the Rebel Army backline. Cork, meanwhile, will hope that new signing Daryl Kavanagh can replicate his pre-season form after netting a hat-trick in the friendly against Longford Town on Saturday February 9.
Drogheda United v Portadown
Mick Cooke's Drogheda United will play host to Ronnie McFall's Portadown on February 11 in the first leg of the first round of the competition. The Drogs are the most successful team in the short history of the Setanta Sports Cup, having lifted the trophy on two occasions in 2006 and 2007. They played the Ports twice when they were drawn together in 2006 and have yet to be beaten by the Armagh side, drawing 0-0 at Shamrock Park and triumphing 4-0 at Hunky Dorys Park, with the help of a Declan O'Brien double.
Portadown have struggled to reproduce the form which ensured a second place finish in the league last season and find themselves languishing in mid-table but will be buoyant after securing progression to the next round of the Irish Cup after defeating Ards 1-0 in the sixth round.
Former Shamrock Rovers striker Gary Twigg represents a serious attacking threat for Portadown. The Scottish striker boasts a wealth of experience and an impressive scoring record. The Drogs, meanwhile, will look to experienced striker O'Brien and new signing Gary O'Neill for the key to unlock the Ports' defence.
Shamrock Rovers v Coleraine
The 2011 Setanta Sports Cup winners Shamrock Rovers will open their competitive season against Oran Kearney's Coleraine. New Hoops boss Trevor Croly has bolstered his squad with a spate of new signings and will hope to open his tenure as manager with a victory as he continues to consolidate his squad.
After a bright start, Kearney's side have been enduring a difficult period in the Irish Premiership and find themselves in fifth position in the league. In their last five league games, the Bannsiders have conceded a remarkable 16 goals but showed tremendous character to come from behind to beat Ballymena 3-2 in the Irish Cup sixth round.
New Shamrock Rovers signings Mark Quigley and James Chambers will be looking to cement their place in Trevor Croly's new-look Hoops side with positive performances, while Coleraine will look to the leadership qualities of captain David Ogilby to steady the inconsistent Bannsiders' defence.
St Patrick's Athletic v Glentoran
Liam Buckley's St Patrick's Athletic will play host to Glentoran in the first leg of the first round and the Inchicore side will be hoping to improve upon recent Setanta Sports Cup performances in 2013. The 2012 FAI Cup runners-up reached the final of the competition in 2010, where they lost out to Bohemians but they failed to progress past the first round in 2011 and 2012, losing out to Cliftonville on both occasions.
The Glens have met St Pat's twice in the Setanta Cup, having been drawn with the Dublin outfit in 2008. A goal from current Republic of Ireland international Keith Fahey snatched a 3-3 draw at Richmond Park in March 2008, but a Daryl Fordyce goal was the difference between the sides in the return tie at The Oval. Glentoran went on to reach the final in 2008, losing out to Cork City at Turners Cross.
Ireland under-21 international Chris Forrester, who recently won the PFAI Young Player of the Year award, will be the main man for Liam Buckley's side, while Christy Fagan will pose the primary threat in attack. Currently finding his side in sixth position in the Irish Premiership, Glentoran boss Eddie Patterson will look to striker Andrew Waterworth and former Northern Ireland international Stephen Carson for goals.