THE second cancellation of the Billy Kee Memorial Cup Final against Institute has not helped Derry City’s pre-season plans which kicked-off at Ferney Park last night against Ballinamallard United - a game City lost 4-2.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And while Brandywell boss Declan Devine fielded a strong line-up against the Irish League side, he has now secured a game against Glenavon at Mourneview Park, weather permitting as a replacement. (7.45 p.m.)
The Billy Kee Final, therefore, has also been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 26th next.
Interviewed before leaving for Co. Fermanagh, Devine said he had hoped to give every member of his first team squad valuable game-time over both matches and he was hopeful that tomorrow night’s game against Glenavon would go ahead.
“We leave for a weekend camp in Monaghan on Friday when our training will be stepped up and if the Mark Griffin situation is sorted, then I will have a first team squad of 20 players to work with and I will be very happy if that proves to be the case,” said Devine.
Setanta Sports Cup
Realising that his opening 2013 Airtricity League game will be staged in the Brandywell in just over three weeks time, Devine also pointed to last night’s opening Setanta Cup matches which saw assistant boss, Paul Hegarty, travel to watch the Drogheda v. Portadown game while Devine would be in Belfast next week to watch Cliftonville host Cork City.
“We’ve got to take advantage of watching our Airtricity League opponents whenever possible and it will good to get to grips with their players, preferred formations and tactics etc.,” added the Derry boss.
“We don’t know who we will draw in the Setanta Cup quarter-final, so there’s always a possibility that we could have watched that opposition in one of the first round matches.
“In any event, there are no easy games in the Setanta Cup and as we qualified for the final last season, I really do think we should be trying to go one better on this occasion.
“Last year’s defeat at The Oval has been consigned to history. We certainly didn’t play to the best of our ability in that game but having lost out on penalties was very disappointing.”
Looking at the squad which would represent the “Candy Stripes” this season, Devine noted that Derry would be “playing a lot of football this season” with games in both the Europa League and in the Setanta Cup in addition to the Premier Division, FAI and League Cup competitions.
“I believe we’ve lost quality players in Stephen McLaughlin and in David McDaid and with them goes 34 goals from last season but I believe we have added good quality and depth to the our squad for 2013,” declared Devine.
“Rory Patterson has been outstanding in pre-season training and practise matches and I think he will prove to be a massive player for us. If he keeps injury free, I’d be very confident that he will be in amongst the goals in 2013. We’ll not be setting any targets, but he will be well supported by other players who will complement his game. Players such as Michael Rafter, Paddy Kavanagh and, hopefully, Mark Griffin will prove to be beneficial to Patterson and Thomas Crawley could also prove to be a valuable asset.
“However, as is the case with all new players, they will require time to bed in and I’m sure our supporters will be the first to realise that as individuals such as Niall McGinn, James McClean and Stephen McLaughlin also needed time to gel.”
Not Setting Targets
While he refused to set targets, his priority for the season was to improve Derry’s home form which he described as “simply not good enough” after last year’s experience.
“We actually got off to a good start but then we appeared to get turned over much to easily on occasions when playing in the Brandywell. That’s simply not good enough. However, our form away from home pulled us through in the end to a fifth place finish. So we must try to maintain what we did when on the road but be difficult to beat, especially at home.
“We must also harbour a desire and a hunger to be successful; we must show that we have a determination to win and improve.”
While delighted to have signed talented new players, Devine has not lost his belief in the quality of the players he had retained.
“I look at the quality of Doherty, Madden, Greacen, Molloy, Higgins, Deery and Patterson- and there’s so much experience there. “So while we have quite a few strong, experienced and technically gifted players, we also have quite a bit of youth joining the panel and I expect them to benefit from the experience around them,” he concluded.