DERRY City will face the first of SIX cup finals when they entertain Bray Wanderers at the Brandywell tonight as Stephen Kenny attempts to achieve what has never been achieved before, win the First and Premier Division titles in consecutive seasons. (7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And while the Brandywell boss is fully aware of what appears a significant task, he continues to point to the progress made by his playing staff having claimed the EA Sports Cup in Cork last weekend.
“The players can take great confidence from the League Cup victory as it was a great win at Turner’s Cross in front of a large, passionate home crowd.
“In fact, for seven of the 12 players who actually played in the game, it was their first senior final - particularly the members of our ‘A’ Championship team - so it was a great experience for them and one which will certainly give those players confidence,” he claimed.
“The League Cup has been won and now we face what will prove to be another tough battle at the Brandywell. Bray are strong opponents who give little away and given our results against them this season - two games ending 2-1 in Derry’s favour at the Carlisle Grounds, plus a 1-1 result at the Lone Moor Road venue - it will prove to be another difficult match.”
Indeed, having watched Bray face Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght last weekend on his way home from Cork, Kenny felt Pat Devlin’s side appeared comfortable when leading 1-0 before they had a player sent off and that proved the defining moment of the game.
“The sending-off changed the game. Up until that point Bray looked in control and very comfortable and could have gone on to actually win the match,” suggested the Dubliner.
“They are a tall side, both in defence and midfield and they have quick forwards, so we will have to be on our guard, particularly in set-piece situations. They can break very quickly and turn defence into attack with one pass so we really will have to be at ourselves.”
However, Kenny, was also very quick to point out that his side would be attempting to extend their unbeaten league run to 17 matches, a record he believed was phenomenal.
“That’s the ambition as it’s vital we secure three points, but we’ll have to work very hard to get them. We must be prepared to receive the ball when under pressure, to be prepared to pass it in tight areas and have the confidence to do that.
“We must exert our own passing game and attempt to create scoring chances on the night despite what I expect to be a flooded midfield area. We’ve also got to be strong defensively given their aerial presence, but I’m confident our players can do that,” continued Kenny.
On the team front, both Barry Molloy and Shane McEleney will miss the game due to one match suspensions while Eddie McCallion will face another pre-match test on a calf problem. Owen Morrison also has a calf problem but given his lack of match practise, a place on the bench is probably the winger’s best bet.
With McEleney ruled out, Ryan McBride will continue at centre-half while Danny Lafferty returns to his accustomed left-back role having missed the Cork game due to a one match ban.
When asked if he expected any “twists or turns” over the final six weeks of the season, Kenny said nothing could be predicted at this vital stage.
“As I’ve said in the past, the players have put in a tremendous effort to get us here when one looks back to the pressure we faced trying to get out of the First Division with teams such as Shelbourne, Cork City, Waterford, Limerick and Monaghan in contention for one automatic promotion place, our progression has been superb.
“That was pressure back then and we coped, now we’ve started to win trophies and it’s important that we attempt to bring that confidence into the Bray game,” he concluded