DECLAN Devine is expecting to find himself in a very strange position prior to this Friday night’s league confrontation with Shelbourne - he’s facing a selection headache!
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Having made the 600 miles round trip to Cork last weekend without the services of eight first choice players, the Derry boss will warmly welcome the return of the McEleney brothers, Shane and Patrick, following the death of their grandfather. In addition, Dermot McCaffrey, Barry McNamee and Paddy Kavanagh are all back in training and chomping at the bit to secure places in the starting line-up.
“The Cork game is behind us and, obviously, we were thrilled with the result but it’s time to move on and unless we get a good result against Shelbourne the Cork victory will mean very little,” declared Devine.
Given that his only injury worries were Stewart Greacen and Kevin Deery, had he selected a team to face Shelbourne and, indeed, would he prefer to hold players back so that they would be ready for the Bray match on Easter Monday?
“Absolutely not,” answered the Derry manager. “Everyone is competing for a place in the team to face Shelbourne. That’s the most important match in front of us, the Bray match will not even be discussed until after Friday night’s game,” he stated.
“Shelbourne will be strong. They got a good result at home against Rovers last weekend and, of course, they will hope to build on that at the Brandywell. They will be firing on all cylinders and I think it’s fair to suggest that there has been very little between the sides over recent seasons and they will be determined to get a result.”
Delighted to see Dermot McCaffrey back to full fitness, Devine is expected to use him against Shelbourne have opted to keep him on the bench against Cork last weekend.
“Obviously Dermot now needs to get game time under his belt, so we’ll see how he is. Shane and Patrick will also rejoin the squad, so I’ve a bit of thinking to do on that front while Barry McNamee is also back challenging for a first team place, so I’m very happy that our injury worries appear to be on the turn.”
Would Paddy Kavanagh get a run-out against his former club?
“Paddy also needs game-time, but I think the Shelbourne match may have come just a few days too soon for him. I’m not ruling him out and I’ll certainly be taking advice from our physio, Colum O’Neill, on the fitness levels of all the players before the actual team will be selected,” claimed Devine.
Agreeing that back-to-back victories can make a massive difference in the league table, Devine pointed to the success of Sligo Rovers who boast a 100 per cent record.
“Everything can change so quickly on the league table. Teams will suffer setbacks throughout the season; players will be ruled out with injuries and suspensions, so it’s vital to get points on the board as quickly as possible.
“Having looked through the squad which travelled to Cork last weekend, we had our worries but those lads displayed a tremendous appetite to go out and win the match down there and that determination certainly helped us. But that was only one win and we really must be determined to push on and build on any success we achieve.
“The Bray match on Monday afternoon (3.00 p.m. kick-off) is nothing but a hindrance at this moment in time, but that’s the nature of the game here over a Bank Holiday weekend.
“The fact is, we’re playing at home for both games. We want our supporters out to support us and in order to do that we simply need to keep playing as well as we can and continue to win matches.
“As we said at the start of the season, our home form last season was far from what we had expected. We were very poor when playing at the Brandywell and that must improve if we are to improve our league position this season.
“In my opinion, we have assembled a decent squad made up of experienced and very young players. We have a strong hand for the Shelbourne game but we will not be picking names out of a hat for either match. We’ve got to make sure that everyone is fit and well and a victory over Shelbourne on Friday night would certainly give us something to look forward to come the visit of Bray on Monday afternoon.”
Devine also felt that quite a few of the matches to be played in the Premier Division would end in draws, such is the competitiveness of the Premier Division this season.
“While not losing is always important, the value of three points for a win, in my opinion, can be so significant come the end of the season. I do believe that draws will continue to regularly feature and if we could turn the draws we had at home last year into wins, then I’d be very confident for the season which lies ahead,” he concluded.