THOMAS Crawley and Barry McNamee are expected to compete for the left-back berth in Derry’s Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final this Monday night at the Brandywell against Drogheda. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And with Barry Molloy suspended for the opening Setanta Cup game, the “Candy Stripes” will also have a change or two in the midfield area as Declan Devine’s side attempts to end a losing sequence against Mick Cooke’s “Boynesiders” who stunned the Premier Division last season with a second placed finish.
Despite being forced into a number of changes, the Derry boss was confident that his side would get off to a winning start in their Setanta Cup campaign.
“It’s no secret that we have been short on pre-season games, but the players have worked hard on their fitness levels and I’m very happy with the squad we have assembled for the new season,” added Devine.
“Yes, we have a number of injury worries, but one player’s misfortune presents a window of opportunity for another and while we will have to make a few changes with, possibly, players operating out of their normal positions, they players will not let themselves down.”
Houston’s absence is particularly unfortunate given that his versatility could prove pivotal this season.
“Sean will be a loss as he’s had a good pre-season and has played well in the two pre-season games. Strong in the midfield area, he can also operate at left-back and with Dermot McCaffrey expected to be ruled out, that will enforce a change,” confirmed Devine.
“Barry Molloy’s suspension also gives us a headache, but we have the back-up players to step in and, hopefully, made a good impression.”
But Derry do have options in the final third with all the club’s strikers fit and ready for action,
“Rory Patterson scored another goal in our 0-1 victory over Institute in the Billy Kee Memorial Cup and he’s in good form having put a good pre-season behind him. Michael Rafter has already shown us how capable a finisher he is while Mark Griffin and Ryan Curran continue to impress, so we will have a welcome selection headache on that front.”
Anxious to get down to business, Devine said his side would be well prepared for what will be a difficult battle against the “Boynesiders.”
“Mick Cooke is close friend of mine as we’ve been doing our Pro-Licence Badge together and I think it’s fair to suggest that, for me, he was the outstanding candidate to win the Personality of the Season award last year, having done so well with Drogheda,” claimed Devine.
“Backed up by a small budget, Mick led Drogheda into the runners-up spot having kept Sligo Rovers on edge with two games remaining in last year’s campaign. He’s an excellent judge of a player and, knowing him as I do, he will be determined to push on and continue to challenge for honours this season as well.
“But we’re delighted to finally be getting down to action and rolling our sleeves up in a competitive match. We’re all looking forward to the game and there’s nothing like getting stuck into it, now that the season is about to start in earnest.”
Reflecting back on Tuesday night’s final pre-season game against Institute, Devine was happy with what he saw.
“We opted to take a few players out of that match, given the schedule we face next week. Simon Madden, Stewart Greacen, Paddy Kavanagh and Barry McNamee sat that game out. Ruaidhri Higgins felt a niggle in the pre-match warm-up, so he was also taken out.
“Barry Molloy and Michael Rafter got another 45 minutes under their belts; Patrick McEleney got a full 90 minutes while Thomas Crawley did well on the left flank and, of course, Rory Patterson netted another goal, so we were very happy with the win.
“It was a good workout for us and we’ll be fully focused on Drogheda before we even think of the visit of Sligo Rovers next Friday night. As I’ve said, we face a very difficult start to the season, but that’s what you want. Tough games will let us know where we are and, hopefully, we can overcome the challenges in front of us and get off to a good start.
“I believe the 2013 campaign is going to be very tough with so many teams now taking advantage of the freedom of so many quality players. Most clubs have strengthened and I’ve no doubt every game will be keenly contested,” concluded Devine.
Season Ticket Sales
The Derry City Office in Brandywell Stadium will be open tomorrow (Saturday), from 10.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. for the sale of 2013 season tickets.