THREE WORDS will dominate Stephen Kenny’s pre-match team-talk in the home dressing room at the Brandywell tonight - “Believe in Yourselves!”
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
With pre-season now completed the Dubliner is happy with his side’s preparation, but he will urge his young players in particular to stand up to the challenge and express themselves on the Airtricity League’s biggest stage.
And the opening challenge is significant given that Sligo have been labelled one of the pre-season favourites to claim the 2011 Premier Division title.
Kenny, therefore, offered his respect for Sligo’s achievements last season and, indeed, openly admitted that Cook had a panel capable of claiming the top honour in League of Ireland football.
“We will respect Sligo, they have good players and are an excellent team,” said the Dubliner. “Credit to them for the successful season they had last year and, no doubt, they will want to push on this season.
“But my priority is Derry City and I believe we also have a good panel of players so we must believe in ourselves and in our ability. We have a fair degree of talent in the squad and we must try to work hard for each other as there is no substitute for hard work on the pitch,” he declared.
Kenny’s main ambition was to win the game, the Derry boss certainly not expected to deploy containment tactics when playing at home.
“We must attempt to win the game and get off to a good start,” he added. “That has to be the ambition. The game is to be played at the Brandywell and we can’t afford to have any fear when playing in front of our own supporters. I’m confident that our players will rise to the occasion, be inspired by the attendance and produce a good performance.”
The Derry boss also held the view that Sligo “would have a good go” at his youngsters and they would be prepared for that.
“I think we will watch two good footballing sides, so it has the making of a very good game. We will attempt to settle in early, try to get on the ball at every opportunity and see where that will take us.”
On the team front, captain Kevin Deery and left winger, James McClean will both miss the game due to calf and hip flexor problems respectively, but both are back running and on their way to full fitness.
New signing, Stephen McLaughlin, will undergo a pre-match test before a decision on his hamstring is made, but options are available throughout the midfield area with Eamon Zayed expected to lead the front-line with Stewart Greacen to dominate in the heart of the Derry defence.
Meanwhile, Sligo boss, Paul Cook, is confident his players will give a good account of themselves when they visit Brandywell and having landed Raffaele Cretaro, Jason McGuinness and Aaron Green from Bohemians during the Transfer Window, plus Alan Kirby and Brendan Clarke, the F.A.I. Cup and League Cup holders are looking forward to their visit to Foyleside.
The ‘Bit O’Red’ boast a fully fit squad and Cook is determined to be competitive this season. “Derry City are a very good side. They have quality players in their squad and I’ve no doubt the game will attract a big attendance.
“However, we went to be competitive this season. For the first few games there could be some changes in the team as the players will take time to find their feet.
“The Brandywell has always been a difficult place to go, but we are looking forward to it greatly. It’s going to be exciting and I think we will give a good account of oursevles,” concluded the Sligo boss.
Dublin referee, Damien Hancock, will take charge of tonight’s game which kicks-off at 7.45 p.m.