DERRY City expect to be supported by in excess of 6,000 spectators in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin this Sunday.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And with ticket sales for the Ford F.A.I. Cup reported to be going particularly well throughout the various local outlets throughout the city this week, in excess of 60 buses have already been booked by various groupings to ferry the ‘red and white’ army to the magnificent Dublin south-side venue this weekend.
Indeed, the surprise inclusion of a large poster publicly displayed on Free Derry Corner yesterday afternoon, wishing the Brandywell club every success in Sunday’s cup final, has seen the momentum continuing to build within the local community.
Derry City’s vice chairman, Mr. Sean Barrett, held the view that, by Friday, he expected local ticket sales to have reached the 6,000 total and he was delighted that the FAI had made this year’s final affordable for all.
“We’ve received a superb response from the local community and I would expect at least 6,000 to be making their way to Dublin this weekend,” he said.
“During the week we’ve had supporters coming into the office purchasing 50 tickets for a bus they had just booked with one of the local bus companies and I would expect more of the same before Friday,” he added.
“Obviously, as a local football club we are thrilled that the community has again opted to come out and support us as we attempt to turn what could have been a very poor season into a highly respectable one.”
And Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, heaped praise on the local Derry & District F.A., the Saturday Morning League and Derry City Council for what he described as their “valuable support and assistance” over the past weekend.
“Due to the wet weather last weekend, we’ve encountered a few difficulties in securing training pitches as we continue our preparations for the cup final,” said the Derry manager.
“However, when I made an approach to both the Derry & District F.A., the Saturday Morning League and, of course, Derry City Council, all three organisation immediately offered their support by playing their matches outside both the Brandywell and the Brandywell Showgrounds, so that we could train.
“I think it was a very nice gesture for them to switch some of their fixtures or, indeed, allow us to train despite the fact that they had games planned on those pitches for last weekend.
“Given that our local pitches are currently heavy and, indeed, very few have floodlights, the local football organisations have again come to our aid as we also host sessions during the evenings. I think the Saturday Morning League and the Derry & District representatives have gone out of their way to facilitate us and given us every change of winning the cup and I’m very thankful for that.
“I think it’s very important that we publicly acknowledge that vital support and, indeed, the support of Derry City Council who continue to be a fantastic supporter of Derry City Football Club,” claimed Devine.
With momentum continuing to build within the local community, the intensity of the daily training sessions has also increased with the total focus now centred on the tactics associated with this Sunday’s game against St. Patrick’s Athletic.
“Over the past week, we’ve opted to be more relaxed in our training sessions but from Tuesday onwards (today), the intensity of the daily sessions will increase as we hope to arrive in Dublin in the best possible shape to face a quality side in the Aviva Stadium.
“The players are all in good fettle and the craic, on and off the training pitch, has been good among the players and the staff. Obviously, we’re all absolutely thrilled to have a cup final to look forward to before the curtain falls on the 2012 season but we also realise that we must be totally focused and well prepared for what I expect to be a very tough game,” continued the Brandywell boss.
The panel spent yesterday morning relaxing playing pool with young midfielder, Barry McNamee, proving to be a cut above the rest with a cue in his hand. In fact, the Ramelton lad appears to be a bit of an all-rounder as he’s been said to be particularly prominent in table tennis circles as well!
With no reports of any injuries and a fully fit panel to choose from, both Devine and his assistant manager, Paul Hegarty, will have no shortage of discussions with their coaching staff over the next few days before the panel is announced.
“At the moment, everyone is fit and well and we’ve had a good week of training and bonding sessions. To be honest, it’s been very relaxed but that all changes as we now start to concentrate on the tactics which will be deployed against St. Pat’s.
“In fact, I think it’s going to be a wee bit strange for us having to play a game on a Sunday afternoon as we’re certainly not used to that. With the match on Sunday, we’ve had to alter our training schedules but everyone has been very relaxed as the days have passed and, of course, every player in the panel is anxious to be included in the starting line-up.
“We’ve also been analysing our cup games throughout the tournament and having played five, netted 16 goals and conceded just two, our statistics have been decent compared to our league form,” smiled Devine.
“So to be back in an FAI Cup final after having been on our knees and almost out of football three years ago and having spent a season in the First Division, I think we’re doing okay and we are where we want to be, back challenging for major honours in the Aviva Stadium.
“It’s time to push on. We lost out in the final of the Setanta Sports Cup during the early stages of the season though we’ve managed to qualify for next season’s Setanta Cup but, before all that, we really must do everything in our power to bring the FAI Cup back to the Brandywell for the first time since 2006 and that would give us all a great lift.”
Meanwhile, former Derry City right-back, Eddie McCallion, who joined Glenavon before the Transfer Window closed at the end of August, has strained his medial ligament and is not expected to play for between eight and 10 weeks.
Playing against Irish Premier League leaders, Cliftonville, McCallion the Lurgan Blues’ captain, was unfortunate to turn the ball into his own net to give the North Belfast side a 2-0 led before he limped off.
“Eddie has been training with us on a daily basis following his decision to join Glenavon,” continued Devine. “And this will be a devastating blow to him. But he’s a player who lives his life well and I’ve no doubt that he will look after himself during his rehabilitation and be back playing sooner than expected.
“Eddie has always taken his fitness levels very seriously and that will stand him in good stead,” concluded Devine.