DECLAN DEVINE has received a significant boost ahead of tonight’s testing trip to Oriel Park with the news that Mark Farren returns to the fold to strengthen his strike-force.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Greencastle man has endured a troubled campaign so far this season having been plagued by injuries but he made a welcome return to training this week and has declared himself fit for tonight’s clash with cash-strapped Dundalk.
Derry boss, Devine has almost become used to life without his most experienced striker having seen him miss the last six matches in all competitions.
Indeed, Farren’s last of just eight starts this season was against St Patrick’s Athletic in the 0-2 defeat at Brandywell on May 4th and his only appearance since then was as a substitute in the 4-0 League Cup victory over Finn Harps on May 21st.
With Rory Patterson sidelined with a hamstring injury, and new signing Conor Murphy still finding his feet with the club, the need for a fit and firing Farren has become more pressing.
Farren’s comeback, however, is likely to be from the bench against the ‘Lilywhites’ after recovering from a troublesome hamstring strain, with David McDaid, who netted the equalising goal against Sligo last weekend, expected to partner Murphy up front.
However, Farren is delighted to be in contention for a starting berth and hopes to have put his injury nightmare behind him once and for all.
“It’s always difficult to get back training when you’ve been out for so long so I’m just finding my way back at the minute and I’m enjoying being back playing again,” said Farren last night.
“I’ll travel down there (Oriel Park) with no real expectations to start to be honest but I’d be happy to be involved in anyway. Injuries are part and parcel of football. It’s difficult sitting watching knowing you could help out the team if you were fit.
“It’s been a bad couple of years for me injury-wise so hopefully I can put that behind me now and hopefully I can help the club in this last part of the season.”
There have been rumours emanating about a possible move away from Derry City for the Inishowen man due to his long-term absence but Farren yesterday dispelled those suggestions and stated he was as happy as ever on Foyleside.
“There’s always going to be rumours in football, there’s not much you can do about it,” he said. “When you’re injured the rumours keep coming out but you’ve just got to let them be and get on with it.
“It’s business as usual for me as far as I’m concerned. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been at the Brandywell, without question. I’ll just be glad to get back playing football and hopefully we can get the result in Dundalk that gets our season back on track.”
Devine’s attacking options were further enhanced with the return of both Stephen McLaughlin and Simon Madden following suspension and while Ruaidhri Higgins must sit out tonight’s game having accumulated four yellow cards, the Derry boss is happy to have some of his more experienced players available.
“Obviously Ruaidhri is suspended which is a big blow,” said Devine. “We feel the yellow card he picked up against UCD was a bit harsh but that’s the way it is and we just have to get on with it.
“But Barry Molloy trained yesterday and he’s once again available for selection which is a big help. And Simon Madden and Stephen McLaughlin come back into the squad again.
“Simon has probably had more assists this year than anybody in the team from a full-back position and Stephen McLaughlin has had an outstanding season so it gives us that goal threat again.
“Mark Farren’s added to the squad again,” he continued. “He’s been training this week so he’s back in the picture for the Dundalk game. So we’re now slowly but surely starting to get a few bodies back.”
Tonight’s opponents are experiencing their own problems as they deal with their perilous financial position.
‘Up for Sale’
The ‘Lilywhites’ have been put up for sale by owner, Gerry Matthews after a season in which their gates have fallen substantially and the club’s players were forced to defer a week’s wages last month.
Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the club, they still managed to halt a five match losing streak at Oriel Park last week when holding reigning champions Shamrock Rovers to a draw under caretaker boss, Darius Kierans.
And Devine is expecting a tough challenge on the tricky third generation surface.
“I think it’s a major advantage they have an artificial pitch that they play and train on a regular basis,” said the Derry manager. “So we’ve been trying to prepare on astroturf pitches across the town to get ourselves ready for the game.
“The reality of it is the Dundalk players will all be trying to make an impression on their new manager so it’s going to be a very tough game.
“Against Shamrock Rovers they were very good on the counter-attack and caused Rovers a few problems.
“But it doesn’t matter what they’re playing for, we have to concentrate on ourselves and go there with the right attitude and make sure we don’t give away soft goals and get the three points.
“Every three points is vital. We were very disappointed to come of the pitch against Sligo having lost but this is a game we can very much win if we play to our full potential so we’ll go down there in confidence but we have to make sure we’re at the races and come out and start well and get a stranglehold on the game.”
Meanwhile, Devine confirmed the new addition to his squad, 19 year-old Matthew Rooney who is expected to occupy a place on the bench tonight.
The Belfast winger has been training with the ‘Candy Stripes’ for the past four weeks since being released by Irish League club, Cliftonville.