SLIGO Rovers boss, Paul Cook, has claimed that Derry City would emerge “a big dark horse” in the race for the 2011 Premier Division title despite last Friday night’s narrow defeat.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Commenting last night, the Liverpudlian agreed that the 1-0 win at the Brandywell was a “big opening result” for his side and while Sligo faced no shortage of problems against Derry in the second half, he felt his side had more or less dominated the opening period.
“We were strong - very strong - during the opening 40 minutes and I always felt we would score,” he added.
“We pushed Derry back and put them under pressure during that period and had they scored the penalty which was awarded five minutes before the break then, in my opinion, it would have been totally against the run of play,” claimed Cook.
That said, he had no arguments with the referee’s decision. “I felt it was a stonewall decision the moment Jason stretched out his leg after Gareth McGlynn got in behind him.
“But Brendan Clarke made a vital save for us but I was very happy with our first half performance.”
Indeed, he thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. “I think it was a great night for League of Ireland football. Derry had massive support but we had quite a few travelling up which was great and that certainly lifted my players.
“But it was a great game of football and I think any neutral observer would have enjoyed the match. Both sides went for it and while it may have been different had they scored from the spot, I certainly believe we deserved to get something from the match.
“We got our break near the end with the goal and it was a big win for us, so we have to push on now and build on three excellent points from what’s always been a very difficult venue.”
Reflecting on Derry City’s performance, Cook was impressed and he believed Stephen Kenny’s side could play a significant role this season.
Strength in depth the key
“Given what I saw on Friday night, Derry City have quite a few talented players in their starting XI and that makes them very dangerous. In fact, if you look at the starting XI of Shamrock Rovers, Sligo, Derry, St. Pat’s and Bohemians, there’s not much in it, so it’s my view that strength in depth will play a key role.
“Derry also have great experience in their ranks and I’d have to admit that the could prove a big dark horse in the race for the title.”
He also suggested that talk of Shamrock Rovers running away with the 2011 trophy would not prove the case.
“Shamrock Rovers will not be running away with the title as all of the top teams are capable of beating each other on any given night, make no mistake about that.
“However, my way of assessing the season comes after the first quarter - the first nine games - it’s then that the league table begins to take shape and you really can’t look at it until that stage of the season,” concluded Cook.
Unlucky to lose
Meanwhile, from a Derry City point of view, Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny was predictably disappointed with the result but he was satisfield with his side’s first performance back in the top flight.
“I felt we deserved to get something out of the game,” he said. “They started well and pushed us back but, at the same time, we created the better scoring chances even in the first half.
“In the second half we looked a very capable side having got to grips with the game and while we missed a penalty, which was a turning point, I can’t fault the effort put in by the players,” added the Dubliner.
“We had five players making their first start in the team, so it wasn’t going to be a cohesive display. Improvement will be needed, but we gave a decent account of ourselves despite the result and we must now attempt to bounce back against UCD in Dublin next Friday night.”
Kenny also praised the Brandywell crowd for their attendance on Friday. “I was delighted with the attendance and I’m just sorry we couldn’t have sent them home with a favourable result having got caught at the death with that late goal.
The Derry boss also has great respect for next weekend’s opponents having already watched them perform this season. “I was at their Setanta Cup game against Lisburn Distillery and while UCD lost that match, they has so much possession but failed to convert in what was a 4-3-3 system.”
The students defeated Drogheda 1-0 at Hunky Dory Park last Friday night and, interestingly, it was a former Derry City youth player who netted the winning goal.
Killian Morrison, from Letterkenny, played in the Derry City team which won the Foyle Cup in recent years and he has accepted a scholarship at the college and will represent the club this season.
“UCD have good players, including Killian Morrison, so we’ll have to be at ourselves if we’re to record a win in Dublin.”
On the team front Kevin Deery and James McClean are both expected to miss the the game due to calf and hip flexor injuries respectively while Ruaidhri Higgins is also in doubt having strained a calf muscle against Sligo.
“It’s early days yet but neither Kevin nor James have done any pre-season work while Ruaidhri is a doubt, he will have treatment this week so we’ll see how he is come the weekend,” concluded Kenny.