AFTER what has been an unprecedented couple of months, competitive League of Ireland action finally returns for Cobh Ramblers tonight.
The St Colman’s Park club will make the trip to Wicklow and the Carlisle Grounds to face Bray Wanderers, to get their First Division campaign back up and running.
With the added incentive of the playoff positions, there is still plenty at stake for essentially all of the sides in the division. Cobh will be hoping to be among those in the mix.
“Obviously all of the promotion spots are still up for grabs. So that is our aim and we will see where we go,” said Ramblers manager Stuart Ashton on the targets for the rest of 2020.
“We are in the same boat as everyone and we have got to hit the ground running. We have got three points from three games, we are not happy with that but it is what it is.
“So from now, we have got to hit the ground running into the games that are left. We want to be in that mix in the end and then see where it takes us.”
After missing out on the play-offs last season, the aim for Bray in 2020 is to snatch one of those places at the very least.
Among those Bray can call upon is former Cork City defender Aaron Barry, while former Shamrock Rovers and St Pat’s attacker Gary Shaw could be a strong asset in front of goal. Bray also have Paul Keegan, who has vast experience in League of Ireland football and also played in England with Doncaster Rovers.
In terms of their own preparations, Ramblers had a very productive outing in a friendly against Cork City last weekend, in what was a 1-1 draw in Bishopstown.
Ian Turner scored the Cobh goal, in what was a strong performance from Ashton’s side against Premier Division opposition.
Cobh went close to winning the game through an effort from Conor Drinan that went just over. But it is from this Friday that the results will become meaningful once again.
Former Cork City man Pierce Phillips and David Hurley look like a decent pair in midfield, alongside former City, Limerick and St Pat's man Turner.
Limerick pair Lee Devitt and Adam Foley look like they could be good recruits for Cobh.
Another former Rebel Army man John Kavanagh looks a very decent addition and should do well at Cobh, with Charlie Lyons and Kevin Taylor two good young talents at the back.
Though at the time of writing, speculation is mounting that Premier Division side Waterford are looking to sign former Preston defender Lyons.
The key question will be can Ramblers find a potent regular goalscorer within their ranks up front. If they can find that, they could potentially be there or thereabouts in terms of the playoff mix.
Conor Drinan, brother of Irish U21 international Aaron, could be one to keep an eye on in that regard.
Cameron Harlson has the potential with his pace to cause defenders problems, while the likes of Cian Leonard will hope to chip in with some goals.
All in all, the efficient and organised Ashton has the core of a good side. Now they need to get results, to illustrate that progress has indeed been made.
Ramblers have added to their ranks ahead of the resumption. They have signed goalkeeper Sean Barron from Avondale, who was a part of their 2019 FAI Intermediate Cup title-winning side at the Aviva Stadium.
Barron, a former member of Cork City and Waterford underage teams, is sure to provide good competition in the goalkeeper department alongside Paul Hunt.
The most recent meeting between Bray and Cobh was in August of last year in Wicklow.
That ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw, as Bray snatched a point from the jaws of defeat through a Hugh Douglas goal in second half stoppage time.
Cobh goals on that occasion came through a Stephen O’Leary brace and a Cian Leonard goal, with the other goals for the Seagulls from Joe Doyle and Dean Williams.
Tonight looks like it could be another interesting affair. Both sides will be determined to get the resumption of play off to a positive start.