DERRY City’s progress to the final of last season’s Setanta Sports Cup has come at a significant cost, much to the surprise of Brandywell boss, Declan Devine.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Having lost out in a dreaded penalty shoot-out to Irish League representatives, Crusaders, at The Oval, Derry must now plan without the services of their midfielder, Barry Molloy, who is suspended for the first leg of this season’s quarter-final against Drogheda at the Brandywell on Monday week, March 4th.
Molloy, who received a yellow card in the semi-final against Shamrock Rovers, received another yellow in the final and, according to the rules of the competition, that suspension must be carried over.
The news, which stunned Devine, was certainly not what the Derry boss had expected and he challenged the rules given that his club and, indeed, Crusaders, had been discriminated against havin played more games than any other other club in the competition.
“It’s bad enough that we have to play our first leg game against Drogheda without Barry Molloy, but that pales into insignificance when you consider that Crusaders have to play their game against Cork City minus eight first team players, that’s what I’ve been told,” declared the Creggan man las night.
“It’s a ridiculous rule in the extreme. Both Crusaders and ourselves are paying a price for reaching the final as in any other competition of note, yellow card cautions from the previous year are scrubbed,” he added.
Molloy, who did not play in Wednesday night’s 2-1 defeat to Northern Ireland’s UEFA Regions Cup Squad due to a calf problem, will certainly cause the “Candy Stripes” a few opening day headaches, but the performance of former UCD and Bray Wanderers midfielder, Sean Houston, certainly raised a few eyebrows.
The Letterkenny man, who boasts a physical presence and can also operate across the back four, emerged the main positive from the Derry City performance on the night.
Having passed the ball well on occasions on his first appearance in the “Candy Striped” jersey, the flame-haired midfielder also linked-up well with his colleagues as he attempted to burst forward at every opportunity, at times ghosting into the opposing penalty area virtually unnoticed.
And given that he stepped back into the left-back berth in the second half to facilitate the departure of Dermot McCaffrey, it was clear that Houston could well compete for that vital defensive midfield role against Mick Cooke’s battling “Boynesiders.”
Acknowledging Houston’s performance, Devine agreed that his individual display was a major positive from what was a disappointing home display overall.
“There were also another few positives, but I would agree that Sean did well in his first outing. He didn’t play against Ballinamallard in our first pre-season game but, yes, he did very well against the N. Ireland Regions Cup squad.
“Michael Rafter also did well when scoring a superb early goal to put us into the lead - his second strike in two games - but we’re much better than that and while we defended their two goals poorly, we’ve still got time to put things right before the season gets underway in earnest.
“The object of the pre-season games is to get players up to a rerquired level of fitness, the end result is not the priority.”