Waterford United open up their campaign back in the First Division on Friday night in Ferrycarrig Park, a game that will be the first of 36 in what will be a punishing nine months.

Wexford Youths will prove to be a tough nut to crack under the guidance of the colourful Mick Wallace. Such is the out-going personality of the millionaire businessman, the Model County team will wear shocking pink as their second strip this season as he claims he “wants to bring a bit of colour to the First Division”.

This will prove to be a very important season for the Blues because only one team will be promoted this season and with three coming back down from the Premier League every point will be like gold, of that there is no doubt.

According the bookies, Waterford United, Shelbourne and Dundalk are the three clubs expected to fight it out for the title. However, Waterford manager Gareth Cronin has problems ahead of the game on Friday. Striker Vinny Sullivan and left full-back Robbie Clare are suspended after carrying points over from last season. Former Waterford player Eric Bradley is suspended for Wexford Youths.

The Blues boss has another major problem with the goalkeeping situation. He signed Danny O’Leary as cover for Pakie Holden recently and played him against Cobh Ramblers and Bray Wanderers, games in which he did very well.

The club were informed that he was eligible to sign but during the course of last week they were informed that O’Leary had signed for a club in the Connacht League and although he never actually played for the club in question he cannot be registered as a Waterford United player and that is a crushing blow not only for the Blues but of course for the player himself.

Ben Spicer will be returning from Australia in five weeks time but during that period Pakie Holden will be the only first team goalkeeper available.

Speaking at the shirt sponsor draw last Friday night, Gareth Cronin said he was bitterly disappointed with this outcome. He also hinted that he may slot in Stephen O’Shea at left full, although he could play Kevin Waters in that position, but that is highly unlikely as it would restrict his attacking options with Vinny Sullivan ruled out.

Kieran Fitzgerald or Stephen Quigley will be at right full-back. David Breen and John Hayes will probably play in the centre of defence. Luke Fitzpatrick, Dave Warren, Paul McCarthy will be in midfield with Kevin Waters (if not a full-back), Karl Bermingham and Willie John Kiely up front.

It is absolutely vital that the Blues get off to a good start. Longford Town will be their opponents at the RSC in their second game followed by a journey to Athlone on Easter Saturday.

Seven points will be the least that will be expected from those three games. Mick Wallace is expecting something in the region of 3,000 Wexford supporters to attend the game, and it is a fact that quite a few bus-loads of supporters are making their way from Waterford so it promises to be a great occasion.

WLRfm will broadcast the game live from Ferrycarrig Park. The local radio station have signed a deal with Easy Living at Tony Burke’s Furniture Store, Tramore Business Park, to broadcast the first four away games live, followed by the following four away fixtures which will be sponsored by Sully’s Snooker Club, O’Connell Street. The situation will be reviewed following those eight away games.