Depleted Derry face Black Friday trip to Sligo

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TRAVELLING to what has been an unhappy hunting ground on a Black Friday night would certainly give one food for thought.

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

But despite ever increasing injury difficulties for Brandywell boss Declan Devine, tonight’s trip to the Sligo Showgrounds will provide yet another challenge for what could be an experimental side.

And just to make matters all the more interesting this weekend, the “Candy Stripes” are back on the road on Monday when travelling to Tallaght Stadium to face Shamrock Rovers in the semi-final of the Setanta Sports Cup.

Devine, however, does not do superstition and views tonight’s trip to Yeat’s Country as an opportunity to become the first team to defeat the ‘Bit O’Red’ this season.

However, to do that, he certainly needs his fair share of luck on Friday the 13th with quite a few of his players nursing injuries.

“We could be done to the bare bones again,” declared the former goalkeeper last night. “Stewart Greacen and Ruaidhri Higgins have already been ruled out due to knee and groin problems,” he confirmed.

“Rory Patterson (foot), Shane McEleney (ankle ligaments) and Stephen McLaughlin (hamstring) are all struggling at the moment but, hopefully at least one of those three will pass a pre-match fitness test should it be required.

“Owen Morrison is also struggling with a calf problem sustained against Finn Harps, so we’re hoping for the best at the moment.”

With Greacen waiting for an appointment with a surgeon to repair the cartilage damage to his knee next week, the absence of Shane McEleney will fashion additional difficulties but Devine opted to err on the side of caution.

“Shane hasn’t trained over the past week but he declared himself fit to play against Finn Harps last Monday but we decided not to risk him.

“Ankle ligaments can be difficult, bring a player back when he’s not ready and he could be out for months. We certainly can’t take that risk. Shane’s been receiving daily treatment from Colum O’Neill and we’ll not be making any decision on him until shortly before the game.

“The same situation applies to Stephen McLaughlin who tweaked a hamstring and Rory Patterson who has been playing through the pain barrier with a foot injury over recent weeks so we’ll just have to wait and see how they all are come Friday afternoon.

“One thing is for sure, I’m certainly glad that we decided to arrange the Finn Harps League Cup match for last Monday afternoon, rather than Tuesday night. At least the injured players will get an additional 24 hours to rest their injuries. Hopefully we will be okay,” continued Declan.

With a high profile Setanta Cup semi-final on the horizon against Shamrock Rovers, Devine refused to even discuss that game against his former mentor as he must led his troops to Tallaght on Monday night.

“There’s absolutely no point in looking that far ahead. Sligo is our only concern at the moment and the players see this game as a big challenge as they are leading the league and have yet to lost this season.”

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