Derry’s season hinges on Dundalk, Shels games

Derry City FC manager Declan Devine and chairperson Philip O'Doherty with Barry Molloy signing a new contract with the club yesterday. (0610PG26)

Derry City FC manager Declan Devine and chairperson Philip O'Doherty with Barry Molloy signing a new contract with the club yesterday. (0610PG26)

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DERRY don’t normally do five consecutive league defeats and following Saturday night’s frustrations in Sligo, Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, is delighted that his troops will return to league action tonight against Dundalk on home soil. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)

DERRY don’t normally do five consecutive league defeats and following Saturday night’s frustrations in Sligo, Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, is delighted that his troops will return to league action tonight against Dundalk on home soil. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

And while this Sunday’s FAI semi-final against Shelbourne will have kept Devine sane, there’s no doubt that the pressure on the Creggan man has continued to mount over recent weeks.

Questioned on the pressure that comes with managing the “Candy Stripes,” Devine openly holds up his hands when pointing to poor results and poor performances.

“I constantly place pressure on myself,” he answered. “I’m fully aware that results this year are not acceptable by Derry City standards but I do feel that there’s been quite a few major influences involved in those poor results.

“Obviously I’ve made mistakes during my first year in management - that was always going to be case - but I think I’ve also learned quite a lot this season which has stood me in good stead during my first year as a manager,” he added.

“I’ve gained invaluable experience. I’ve lost out in a major cup final on penalties during the early stages of the campaign but, if we could go on and win the FAI Cup this season, then I think that would prove to be very positive for everyone associated with the club.”

However, Devine also agreed that managerial ability was normally gauged on league forms and he was the first to admit that the season has been poor to date.

“There’s no question that our league form has been poor in 2012 but I think it’s fair to suggest, that so many things have impacted on that. For example, we lost four of our best players at the start of the campaign and new players had to be given time to bed in. We then found ourselves at the centre of a major injury crisis and young players had to step up to the plate sooner than we would have liked.

“So it’s been a massive learning curve for me this season and I’ve no intention of throwing in the towel at this stage. I intend to keep working hard in the company of my excellent backroom staff who are also working their socks off in order to get things right.”

He admitted that the next six days would prove crucial in the club’s season.

“Our entire season depends on our performances over the next six days,” declared Devine. “It’s all about getting two victories in our next two home matches. The target for Tuesday night is a good win built on a solid performance and that will set us up for the visit of Shelbourne this Sunday afternoon. It’s a big six days for everyone associated with the club.”

For tonight’s game, Derry will have a similar panel to that which was soundly defeated at the Showgrounds but Devine insisted that he “had to manage his selection carefully” given the close proximity of the cup game.

“An immediate response is required against Dundalk. We certainly need a reaction from the players after the Sligo defeat and we want to put this poor league run to an end.

“Obviously, I’m very concerned that we have lost five league games on the trot, that’s not acceptable as it’s not the standard that has been set by this club. We’ve give away some terrible goals during the campaign and it’s also important to note that we haven’t scored enough goals either.

“We have two tough games this week and with Dundalk having already won at the Brandywell and held us to a share of the spoils in Oriel Park, it’s time we redressed that balance and we have the perfect opportunity to do so.

“In fact, I think our supporters will notice a much stronger and more dedicated Derry City team taking to the field against both Dundalk and Shelbourne this week.

“Places in the panel for the FAI Cup semi-final are up for grabs as Sunday could prove a defining moment in our season.”

Derry do have injuries with Rory Patterson (hamstring), Stephen McLaughlin (groin), Barry Molloy (thigh strain) and Marc Brolly (calf) already ruled out for tonight’s fixture.

“Rory, Stephen, Barry and Mark have all be ruled out and we have a few doubts with a number of players carrying knocks, so the panel will be very similar to that which travelled to Sligo.

“We can’t run the risk of using players who are carrying injuries given the cup match, but we’ll manage the situation as best as we can. But Conor Murphy will definitely start as he will not be involved on Sunday as he’s cup-tied and that will give me an opportunity to rest either Mark Farren or David McDaid.

“If we could put in a good performance and get the win over Dundalk, I think it would go a long way to assist our preparations for the cup semi-final.

“But Dundalk are fighting for their very lives in the league and they will also be determined to have a go at us as they seek a positive performance prior to their cup semi-final against St. Pat’s so we can’t afford to take anything for granted.”

Meanwhile, while Barry Molloy will not be involved tonight against Dundalk due to injury, Derry’s midfield general has committed his immediate future to his home town club having signed a new two year contract yesterday.

With his current deal set to expire at the end of the season, Molloy will move into his 10th year at the Brandywell and, therefore, he will be granted a testimonial during the 2014 season.

Devine delighted

And Devine was delighted that the player had agreed to remain on home soil.

“I’m absolutely delighted that Barry has committed his future to Derry City and we had no difficulty in agreeing terms,” commented Devine.

“I was aware that a number of other clubs had been monitoring Barry’s situation but I think he was always going to commit to us. He’s been an outstanding player for us down through the years and he’s shown great loyalty and commitment to his hometown club.

“Barry’s new deal commences next season and in 2014 he will be offered a testimonial year having spent a decade at the club.”

Other players who have already pledged their future to the “Candy Stripes” include Stewart Greacen, Kevin Deery, Stephen McLaughlin, Ruaidhri Higgins, Rory Patterson, Shane and Patrick McEleney and Gerard Doherty.

“I’ve still got a few to talk to and, of course, I want to make sure that our up and coming youngsters are not left out either, so I would expect to be busy on that front over the next few weeks,” concluded the Brandywell boss.