BITTERLY disappointed at last weekend’s performance and, of course, defeat in Drogheda, Declan Devine will demand a response from his playing staff when Martin Russell leads the Students of UCD to the Brandywell on Friday night. (7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Indeed, having lost out to Shelbourne on the club’s previous trip away from home, the “Candy Stripes” bounced back strongly when recording victories over Linfield (Setanta Sports Cup) and Cork City and the Derry boss wants to see more of the same.
“I think everyone wants to see a response to last Friday night’s performance,” said Devine. “We were very poor in Drogheda and deserved nothing from the game.
“We failed to win our individual battles in the vital areas, we didn’t seem to be hungry enough and we certainly paid the penalty. We’ve no problem with the defeat, but we do want to see a much improved performance against UCD and, hopefully, a return to winning ways which would see us extend our 100 per cent winning record at home.”
And Devine agreed that his playing staff were “more than capable” of producing a top drawer performance despite a number of worries due to injuries and suspension.
“We suffered our first defeat of the season to Shelbourne in Tolka Park and while we really should have taken something from that game, the players responded with two big wins in the space of a week in the Setanta Cup and in the league.
“So we’re in a similar situation to the Shelbourne defeat and, hopefully, the players will produce the goods and go on to win what will prove to be another tricky game,” insisted Devine.
“What happened last weekend happened and we have to move on. I’m not going to analyse the game over and over again, we have a point to prove against UCD on Friday night and I’ve noticed that the playes are anxious to get out there to play again as soon as possible.
“I think it’s good that the match is at the Brandywell where we boast a 100 per cent record and that’s very important to us. Before the season kicked-off we stressed the importance of making the Brandywell a very difficult venue to get favourable results from and that philosophy hasn’t altered.
“The pitch continues to improve and I’ve no doubt that will see an improvement in our performances. Playing at the Brandywell should be cherished and enjoyed. It cannot be deemed an obstacle for Derry City players and we always look forward to playing in front of our own passionate support.”
On the team front, defenders Stewart Greacen and Ryan McBride are struggling with knee injuries while Barry Molloy must sit out a one match ban having been sent off in Drogheda last weekend.
“Rory Patterson has not trained this week due to a badly sprained ankle but I’m hopeful he will make the starting line-up,” continued the Derry boss.
“Defensively we have a few injury problems, but we do have options and a few members of our Under-21 team could well be called upon this weekend.”
Devine could switch Eddie McCallion, Simon Madden or, indeed, 6’ 2” teenager Michael Barr into a central defensive berth to accompany Shane McEleney while Kevin Deery is expected to accompany Ruaidhri Higgins in the centre of the park, to cover for Molloy’s absence.
And while the squad trained at Prehen yesterday afternoon, the panel also enjoyed a special “bonding session” at the Campsie Karting Centre earlier in the day.
Devine, however, rejected suggestions that the “bonding session” was an immediate response to the problems experienced in Drogheda last weekend.
“We took the group to Campsie for a team-building and team bonding exercise,” he answered. “We’ve done that in the recent past when inviting Mickey Harte down to speak to the players, so it wasn’t a response to the Drogheda defeat.
“We believe it’s very important to have a happy group in the dressing room and I believe players enjoy the odd change to the schedule which helps camaraderie.
“Any difficulties we had in Drogheda were addressed in Drogheda. That match has gone and we must move on and, hopefully, we’ll get back on track on Friday night against UCD,” he concluded.
Harps on Monday
While Devine’s total focus is centred on Friday night’s game against UCD, he will also have noted that his “Candy Stripes” host local rivals Finn Harps in an EA Sports League Cup second round clash on Easter Monday with a 2.00 p.m. kick-off.
And while it’s hoped that Brian McGroary will make his first start in that game, the Derry boss refused to make any comment on the make-up of his squad until after the UCD fixture.
“I would anticipate a few changes in the squad and it’s a game we still wish to win.
“We’ve always taken the League Cup competition seriously and that will not change this season. However, our first priority will be to attempt to defeat an enthusiastic and youthful UCD before taking the Finn Harps into consideration,” he concluded.