‘Blues’ won’t be a distraction - Devine

DERRY City boss, Declan Devine, was confident that his playing staff would be fully focused on tonight’s trip to Tolka Park, despite the close proximity of Tuesday night’s Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final against Linfield.

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

With quite a few young players involved in the current “Candy Stripes” squad, the Brandywell boss said he was confident the Linfield match wouldn’t have any bearing on tonight’s vital Premier Division fixture.

“To be perfectly honest, I haven’t heard Linfield mentioned at any of our training sessions this week,” insisted Devine. “Tuesday’s match hasn’t been mentioned once by anyone, our total focus is on the Shelbourne fixture and we can’t afford to look beyond that,” he added.

“If I felt that some players had one eye on the Tuesday game, I would deal with it immediately but it simply hasn’t been a problem. We’ve prepared well for the Shelbourne fixture and, hand on heart, the Linfield has not been mentioned by anyone in the squad.”

Delighted to be involved in top games, Devine said this is what his playing staff looked forward to.

“Travelling to play Shelbourne at Tolka Park will bring back so many memories - good and bad. We’ve had some fantastic games in that venue down through the years, including cup finals. At times we’ve been totally outplayed, yet bounced back to score a late goal and take vital points home.

“Hopefully, we’ll be at ourselves and attempt to keep our 100 per cent record going. We’ve had them watched, our preparations have gone well and while Patrick McEleney is struggling to make the starting line-up, one player’s absence will open a window of opportunity for others,” claimed Devine.

“Patrick has been a pivotal player for us and he’s been superb for us since the season started. However, in this squad we’ve demanded that players be versatile and be prepared to play in other position should that be required.

“If Patrick does not make it, then David McDaid, Owen Morrison, Simon Madden and, indeed, Eddie McCallion are options we can turn to so that our shape or strength will not be seriously affected.

“Paul (Hegarty) and I have always maintained that players must be flexible and confident to switch into new roles when required and that situation would well develop for the Shels match, but we’ll have to wait and see,” continued Declan.

Devine also suggested that Ryan McBride, widely recognised as a centre-back, had impressed in a midfield role in a recent game for the club’s Reserve side.

“We also brought Ryan on during the Setanta game at Windsor Park to operate in a holding midfield role and he did that well. The same situation to apply to other players when needed as we’re adamant that we cannot afford to be predictable this season. We must be able to change our formation at will with the players all fully aware of any new responsibilities they may have.”

Options within the group have improved since the start of the campaign with Madden, in particular, capable of operating on the right flank should McDaid be favoured in a more forward role.

And should Derry opt to push the Dubliner forward, then Eddie McCallion, can easily slot into his accustomed defensive berth without any problems.

“Davy McDaid and Owen Morrison are other options available to us or, alternatively, we could switch Stephen McLaughlin over to the right flank without any difficulty.”

Reflecting on Shelbourne’s strengths and their excellent start to the season, Devine was impressed with the quality of players brought in by Alan Mathews.

“There are a quite a few top quality players in the Shelbourne squad this season. Alan has kept quite a few from last year after Shelbourne battled their way into the FAI Cup final only to lose out on penalties against Sligo Rovers. They even had a man sent off in that match, but never looked out of place.

“Alan had made quite a few changes and I think last week’s 2-0 victory in Dalymount tells us quite a lot about the strength of Shelbourne this season. Every team will be expected to battle down there next season as Shels certainly hope to make an impression on their return to the top flight.”

David Cassidy has done well this season when operating in the proverbial “hole” behind top scorer, Philly Hughes, while winger Paddy Kavanagh and Glen Cronin are also goal scoring threats.

Centre-half Stephen Paisley has added strength and experience to the back four while players such as Stephen Hurley and Conan Byrne have settled in well at Tolka and are hopeful of enjoying a competitive season.

“We’re under no illusions, Friday night’s match will provide us with a stern test of our credentials. But we’re ready for the challenge and the players will know exactly what’s required of them.

“Our plan is to travel to Dublin, get onto the pitch, attempt to win the game and take three points back home with us on the bus. It’s that simple, but we know we will have to work very hard if we are to achieve that,” concluded the Derry boss.