DERRY City captain Cliff Byrne believes Friday’s victory over Athlone Town can be the catalyst which finally ignites the club’s Premier Division campaign.
The Dubliner, who turns 32 later this month, conceded the players ideally would’ve liked to deliver the win over the lowly ‘Midlanders’ with more style. However, he’s confident the ‘Candy Stripes’ are moving in the right direction after a brief settling in period for the many new faces at the Brandywell club.
“We’re not looking for excuses but every one of those players wants to learn, improve and be successful,” said Byrne.
“The group will gather momentum but it will only gather momentum with hard work and it’s highly important we deliver that with 100 per cent effort every week.
“That’s two home wins on the bounce now and we’re progressing all the time. We would always like to deliver that in more style than we did against Athlone. However, the opposition will never roll over and, at times, we know we could have been a lot better.”
The former Scunthorpe United defender has been a mainstay at the heart of the City defence so far this season and was one of Roddy Collins’ marquee signings in the close season.
As a result of injuries and the manager’s early season rotation policy, he’s had to form no fewer than three central defensive partnership over the first seven games!
Indeed, in the absence of the injured Ryan McBride last Friday night, Shane McEleney became the third player to play alongside Byrne.
Byrne claims the forced changes to the back four during the early part of the season isn’t an issue and he’s confident that the new-look Derry squad can finish the first series of fixtures strongly.
“We’ve got a strong squad and the manager rotates but it’s not an issue,” he claimed. “We’ve got a good mix in this squad and we’re learning all the time.
“Like I said to the lads after the game, if we learn from that performance we can learn to dominate games. That will come because it’s a good group.
“We’ve got good staff behind us and we’re endeavouring every day on the training pitch to improve. We’re thankful for our home supporters. It’s good to give them another home win and hopefully that will kick us on again. No disrespect to Athlone but they’re not coming here expecting to get much and they worked hard.
“It doesn’t matter who you are playing, nobody is going to roll over and say, ‘tickle my belly’ and ‘take the three points’.
“We had to earn it and put our bodies on the line on certain occasions but whether it’s a comfortable win or not - it’s three points and that’s end of story. Athlone made it as tough for us as we did for ourselves but the objective before the game was three points and that’s what we’ve come away with.”
The City skipper has braced himself for a barrage of text messages from his first cousin, James O’Brien this week after the Athlone midfielder gave the visitors a shock lead in the first half of Friday’s game.
And given O’Brien had netted a spectacular own goal against Bohemians in the previous match, Byrne was happy to let him enjoy his goal - especially as Derry managed to turn around the deficit and record the win.
“Don’t remind me about that,” said Byrne of the goal. “I’m sure Jamsie will be texting me all week to remind me about that. It was a good finish considering he scored an own goal the week before,” smiled the City skipper.