DERRY City could be set to lose the services of another of the club’s young players to the Premiership, the “Journal” has learned.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The Brandywell club’s goalscoring left-back, Daniel Lafferty, has attracted interest from Championship club, Brighton but, at the time of going to Press, it’s understood that an interest from Sunderland has appeared on the horizon.
The Gus Poyet managed side had their chief scout in Tallaght Stadium for last Thursday night’s match against Shamrock Rovers and, following a positive report on the local man, that interest was followed through with a representative at Sunday’s game in the Brandywell when Lafferty netted the second goal in the 4-0 victory.
Well placed sources from Brighton have confirmed that Lafferty is on their shopping list but, they too, were aware of late interest from the North-East of England given the rise to prominence of another Brandywell player, James McClean.
However, Derry City chairman, Mr. Philip O’Doherty, insisted that he was “not aware of any official contact with any club” in relation to Lafferty, but he did admit that he was aware of speculation that clubs had been watching the player over recent weeks.
“I can only state that at this point in time, we have not received any official approach from any club regarding any member of our playing staff,” said Mr. O’Doherty last night.
“There has been speculation that clubs were watching Derry City players, but no official approach has been made either to me or, as far as I know, to Derry City Football Club. Therefore, I feel it would be wrong of me to comment until such an approach was made,” added the club chairman.
Lafferty, who held a contract at Celtic since he was 16 years of age, has enjoyed great prominence with his home town club this season having netted seven league goals from his left-back position.
Indeed, having formed a superb partnership with James McClean before his move to Sunderland, the 22-year-old has again linked particularly well with Stephen McLaughlin on the left flank since McClean’s move to the Premiership.
No doubt, the speculation will intensify over the next few days, but my source in Brighton was adamant that the club had expresed an interest in the player. However, he agreed that if Sunderland had entered the scenario, then the Championship club would not be in a position to compete with the Premiership club.
Strong Finish Sought
Meanwhile, Derry boss, Stephen Kenny, also confirmed that no one had made any contact with him in relation to the sale of Lafferty, but he agreed that the left-back had enjoyed a superb season in the top flight of Irish football this year.
And he expected the player to be involved in a strong Derry City finish to the current season.
Delighted with the comprehensive victory over Galway on Sunday, but contemplating what might have been after defeat at Shamrock Rovers, the Dubliner wishes to lead Derry into the Europa League under his own steam.
And while victory for St. Pat’s in last night’s FAI Cup replay against Shelbourne would basically secure the “Candy Stripes” at top four finish and Europa League football, Kenny wishes to finish the season strongly despite difficult games against St. Pat’s and Bohemians.
“Everyone was disappointed after Thursday night’s result in Dublin, so huge credit to the players who opted to refocus, be professional and put in the required effort against Galway on Sunday night,” he noted.
“I felt it was a pretty good performance and but for their keeper, Conor Winn, I think the scoreline would have been even more comprehensive. Their keeper put in a ‘man of the match’ performance despite conceding four goals. He was tremendous on the night.”
But looking to the effort of his own side, Kenny pointed to the quality of Derry’s crossing. “That was of a particularly high standard,” he suggested. “We caused their defence no shortage of problems with our deliveries into the box and, on another night, I think we could have scored quite a few goals.”
Players bounced back
“Given what happened on Thursday night, the players bounced back well and secured an excellent victory. But I think it’s also important to note that we haven’t qualified for Europe just yet and we must get at least a point at Inchicore on Friday night to confirm our place.
Gareth McGlynn, Eddie McCallion and Owen Morrison have already been ruled out plus the news that Shane McEleney is struggling with a back injury, and that will make Derry’s task all the more difficult.
“Qualification for Europe is important to us and now that the league title looks to be beyond our grasp I believe we’ve got finish the campaign strongly and then look back on what will have been an excellent season for us.
“Yes, we attempted to achieve what no other club had done in the past, win the First Division and Premier Division titles in consecutive seasons, but to have come out of Administration and bankrupcy and then make an impact at a much higher level with so many players who had never experienced Premier Division football, is special in my view,” continued Kenny.
“We’ve had just four defeats in 33 league matches - Sligo Rovers have lost seven - so we’re now one point behind Sligo and while we both face tough matches this weekend in Dublin, I think we must attempt to finish our campaign on a high.”
Derry, of course, have also won the EA Sports Cup which brings with it participation in next season’s Setanta Sports Cup campaign, so Europa League qualification will ensure a particularly busy campaign in 2012.
“European qualification will see us compete in five competitions next season - Europe, Setanta Cup, Premier Division, FAI Cup and League Cup - so that’s a very big programme but it’s one we would embrace and I think it would signal an excellent effort by everyone involved at the club this season, it’s been an exceptional effort,” concluded Kenny.