PETER HUTTON is hoping his Derry City squad can take full advantage of Cork City’s preoccupation with Europe tonight when the title challengers arrive at Brandywell Stadium. (Kick-off 7.45 p.m.)
John Caulfield’s men will no doubt have one eye firmly fixed on next Thurday’s lucrative first qualifying round Europa League tie against Icelandic side KR Reykjavik at Turner’s Cross.
Although the Cork ranks are heavily bolstered with ex-internationals and highly experienced League of Ireland players, Hutton admits even the most professional of players can become distracted with such a big game on the horizon.
However, he’s prepared his troops for an extremely competitive test as he hopes to secure a positive result to get their faltering league campaign back on track.
“Cork have a lot of experience in their side and they’re going to be professional in their approach,” said Hutton. “But they’re only human too and maybe now is a good time to play them.
“The (European) draw has been made now and there’s been a lot of stuff in the media about the European ties but we have to make sure we’re focused on the game.
“Europe can be a distraction and if there are any slip-ups at all we have to make sure we take advantage of them.
First and foremost we have to make sure we’re concentrating on the game at hand. But if they do become distracted with regards the league game, certainly we have to try and take advantage of it.”
Cork go into the game with four wins in their last five games, and have not lost a league game at the Brandywell since 2012. They go into the game in second place in the table, just three points behind Dundalk, although the leaders do have a game in hand.
So it’s probably not the fixture Hutton would have chosen after a two week break.
“If you were going to hand-pick your opposition after the break, Cork certainly wouldn’t be the team,” admitted Hutton.
“But we have to get on with it. They’re a quality side and their strength and depth is unbelievable. They signed a few ex-internationals in Liam Millar, Alan Bennett and Colin Healy who is suspended.
“They brought in Karl Sheppard and they signed young Kevin O’Connor who has a big future ahead of him.
“But I think the break came at a good time for us. The good thing is we have another week’s break after the Cork game which will help bring a few players up to match speed.”
If you were going to hand-pick your opposition after the break, Cork certainly wouldn’t be the team. But we have to get on with it. They’re a quality side and their strength and depth is unbelievable.Peter Hutton
Derry are without skipper, Ryan McBride and Seamus Sharkey through suspension while Stephen Dooley is expected to be named on the bench for the first time this season as he continues his recovery from a back injury.
Speaking to the media at the club press conference at SoHo Bar and Restaurant, City boss John Caulfield said he expected a stern test from the ‘Candy Stripes’ tonight:
“Derry are rebuilding with a young, local team but you always know that you will be in for a tough game at the Brandywell. Against the top teams, they have fared reasonably well so we know we will need to play well. They might have struggled to score goals, but they will always have a go when they are at home.
“We finished the first half of the season very well, so we need to make sure we are well-prepared going up there. Everyone needed to just get away and recharge the batteries and everyone came back in to training in good spirits. The second half of the season is where the real action starts so we want to go to Derry and get a positive result.”
Going into the game, Caulfield will definitely be without John Dunleavy and Kieran Djilali who remain sidelined with knee injuries, while John Kavanagh will miss out with a hamstring injury. Michael McSweeney is also a doubt, having been ill during the week. Colin Healy will also miss the game as he serves the first of a two match suspension, but Darren Dennehy returns from a one match ban.