DANNY Lafferty signed a new one year contract yesterday as Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny, continues his attempts to build his squad for the seasons which lie ahead in the top flight.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And the 22-year-old former Celtic player will now focus his attentions on Derry City’s important visit to Hunky Dorys Park in Drogheda tonight, for a match the “Candy Stripes” will be very keen to win after dropping two points at UCD last Friday.
For Kenny, Lafferty is the first signing in a team the Dubliner wants to keep together. “We’re different from most of the other clubs in the Premier Division in that 90 per cent of our players have either come up through the youth ranks or come from the locality,” said Kenny.
“So we’re trying to build a team, not break-up one. Our philosophy is different from others in that Shamrock Rovers may well be in a position to sign the best players in the country if they want, but we’ve opted to try and produce players and, in fairness, quite a few young player rose to prominence during last Monday’s 3-0 League Cup victory over UCD,” he noted.
“Daniel Lafferty signed at the start of last season and it has taken him time to settle in which, it must be said, is never easy for players, especially if they have returned from cross-Channel clubs.
“But I’ve been thrilled with his performances this year and I feel he has improved quite a lot this season.”
The Dubliner also pointed to Lafferty’s uncanny knack of scoring goals despite occupying a full-back berth. “It’s very unusual for a full-back to score four ‘away’ goals so far this season having netted at Belfield (twice), the Carlisle Grounds and in Dalymount which are considered difficult venues
“And three of those goals were headed home by a fella who stands barely 5’10” in height which is excellent. He also had a shot strike a post in Richmond Park only for the ball to roll along the goal-line before it was cleared when it could so easily have crossed the line
“He’s done really well for us and I believe there is even more improvement to come. He can get stronger and improve again, he will continue to work on aspects of his defending but his range of passing from left-back is exceptional and it’s great for a forward player if he has a full-back capable of finding him with accuracy,” continued the Derry boss.
Careful and cautious as he prepares to take Derry forward, Kenny has been made acutely aware of the club’s financial situation and the importance of developing local youth.
“We have to be careful and cautious in relation to making signings. Daniel is the first we have spoken to as his contract is up at the end of the current season, but he has played so well that he’s gone from a situation where he had to bide his time before becoming a first choice player.
“He’s also been selected for the Airtricity League team to play in the Super Cup in the Aviva Stadium this month, so I think he has come a long way over such a short space of time. I’ve no doubt that he will get even better.”
Molloy, Deery Ruled Out
Meanwhile, regular midfielders, Barry Molloy and Kevin Deery, have both been ruled out of tonight’s trip to Co. Louth to face a Drogheda side which has been inconsistent over recent weeks.
Last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Bohemians followed a 3-1 victory over UCD, a 4-1 defeat by St. Pat’s and a 2-1 win at Oriel Park over Dundalk.
Kenny, therefore, will be hoping to get back to winning ways to remain in the mix at the business end of the Premier Division table
And he pointed to the difficulty his side would face at Hunky Dorys Park this evening. “Unfortunately both Kevin Deery (calf) and Barry Molloy (ankle) have been ruled out and they will be a loss. In fact, every time Kevin plays we are very rarely defeated such is his determination and passion in the centre of the park.
“So when he’s missing, other players have to grab the initiative and inject the same qualities as we must always have passion and determination in the midfield area,” insisted the Derry boss.
“In Drogheda we will have to be physically strong and committed and it’s interesting that when a goalkeeper kicks the ball from his hands at that venue, the ball always seems to make its way into the opponents’ penalty area so we must be able to deal with that.
“It’s a very compact venue and we’ll be given very little space to play, so we have to make provisions, deal with that situation and attempt to control the ball at all times. I think it will be very much a case of end-to-end stuff with space at a premium. So while fluent football will be difficult, our ability to battle for every ball will be essential.”
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Having noted Drogheda’s results to date, not forgetting the fact that his side threw away a 2-0 lead on their last visit back in March, Kenny was confident that there would be no repeat of that situation.
“They netted a soft equaliser and were then awarded a penalty, so it was a bad experience but one which we will have learned from. We made mistakes having going 2-0 up, so we’ve got to try and go out and win the game and it would be a big win for us if we can achieve that,” he maintained.
And having rested the vast majority of his first team during Monday night’s superb 0-3 victory over a strong UCD at the Belfield Bowl, Kenny was happy to have given quite a few players additional rest.
“We opted to make nine changes against UCD after what has been an intense period in relation to fixtures. We had five trips to Dublin over the space of three weeks and while the football authorities don’t seem to take into account where we are situated, it’s very difficult to deal with these situations.
“After matches in Dublin we don’t normally get home until 2.30 a.m., players have difficulty sleeping and then it’s a case of up and away again two days later. It’s certainly not ideal, but we must get on with it and try to deal with that, hence the changes against UCD.
“We must make provisions in relation to resting players as we’re in a reasonable position in the league having been promoted. It’s rarely happened that a First Division team is challenging for a place in Europe but it’s never happened that a team promoted one season is actually challenging for the league title the very next season.
“Obviously we were disappointed with the 2-2 league result at Belfield before our young players produced a superb performance to record a fully deserved 3-0 League Cup victory, but we’re still up there with quite a few games to go and a win in Drogheda would certainly give us all a great boost in confidence.”
James McClean Situation
When questioned on the future of his exciting left-winger, James McClean, Kenny returned to the fact that he was attempting to build a team and not break it up.
“It doesn’t make financial sense to sell a player in July, be it James McClean or someone else. I think October is a more realistic time but, that said, no one will be sold unless our valuation is accepted by the purchasing club,” he insisted.
“We’re trying to build a team and we can’t simply give players away. Yes, Blackpool have made an offer for James but that offer falls well short of what we value him at so it’s the same this weekend as it was last.
“Speculation has been widespread in relation to players from Derry City moving on to other clubs and while I’m delighted to see that our players have been recognised as quality performers, nothing has been happening behind the scenes.
“We accept the fact that due to European commitments for other clubs, nine Derry City players have been selected for the Airtricity Super Cup squad for late July and I’m delighted about that.
“But even with European commitments, I still believe we would have had quite a few players selected - maybe not nine - but quite a few given the performances we have exhibited this season,” concluded Kenny.
The Airtricity League team will play Manchester City and Celtic on July 30th and 31st with Inter Milan the fourth team competing in the competition.