The Football Association of Ireland have released draft details of a brand new Shield competition that will precede the new 11-team SSE Airtricity League First Division – with the league campaign now not slated to get underway until March 27.
The second tier had been schedule to begin on Friday February 21 – with Drogheda United beginning their campaign away to Cobh Ramblers a day later. That was when Shamrock Rovers II had replaced Limerick FC in the 10 team league but the FAI have subsequently allowed the Shannonsiders to apply for a license to complete, saying they were satisfied the club had come out of examinership.
In a statement, the Football Association said, “The draft fixture list is in line with the dates previously advised and based on 11 teams competing in the League.
“The National League Executive Committee has agreed the draft fixture list will consist of two rounds of League fixtures and maintains the play-off format. It will be preceded by a First Division Shield Competition.
“As stated, the fixture list is in draft and based on all clubs being granted a licence to play so therefore, it is subject to change.”
With 11 teams now competing in the First Division, the FAI have decided to scrap their initial 27-game league season in favour of a 20 game season – in which each team will compete against the other home and away. The league will now not get underway until March 27. Drogheda United will host Cobh Ramblers on matchday one, before facing Wexford at Ferrycarrig Park a week later.
Interestingly, Drogheda face Cabinteely twice at home in their first five league outings of the season.
The Shield competition sees all 11 First Division teams split in two groups – Group A and Group B. Tim Clancy’s Drogheda United find themselves in Group B with Shamrock Rovers II, Galway United, Longford Town and Athlone Town. They face Galway at United Park on Friday February 21.
United will face away trips to Athlone and Longford either side of a home fixture against Shamrock Rovers II.
DROGHEDA UNITED'S FIRST DIVISION SHIELD FIXTURES
Drogheda United’s First Division Shield schedule? Here’s who, when and where.
There will be 22 match rounds in total in the league this year with each team having two rounds off on account of the uneven number of teams in the division. As previously announced, the play-offs have been extended to include the fifth placed team in the First Division in 2020.
This season, the teams that finish between second and fifth will all be in end-of-season playoff contention. The second and fifth place teams will play each other in a two-legged affair as will the teams who end in third and fourth. The winners of those games will then play each other home and away before the winner of that faces the ninth place Premier Division team – again over two legs.
Drogheda United responded to the release of the draft fixtures by urging supporters not to arrange travel for games as they are subject to change.
‘Drogheda United advises our supporters to not undertake any planning relating to the fixtures issued by the FAI. These are draft and subject to change, if any supporters have prepaid for accommodation for the match in Cobh on the 22nd of February, the club will refund this if this match does not go ahead.’
You can see the full Shield and First Division draft fixture list by clicking here.
DROGHEDA UNITED'S FIRST FIVE FIRST DIVISION FIXTURES
Here’s how the Drogs start their league season in 2020.