THE young players who have played a vital role in stepping up to the mark for Derry City this season will be involved in this Sunday’s official FAI Cup Final squad.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
In fact, Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, was adamant that players such as Tony McNamee, Caoimhinn Bonner, Michael Duffy and Ryan Curran would all be “suited and booted” for this weekend’s adventure in the Aviva Stadium against St. Pat’s, Devine viewing their involvement as a fitting reward for the effort put in.
“We will have a squad of 21 players making the journey to Dublin,” he confirmed. “We’ve no injury problems and the full squad is available for selection, so I’m facing a very welcome selection problem. But the young lads deserve this, they’ve been with us all along, keeping senior players on their toes and, of course, stepping up to the plate when called up. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” continued the Creggan man.
“It’s a big weekend for us all and I must state that I’ve been involved with a very happy group over the past few weeks. We’ve been preparing for every eventuality as so many different scenarios could materialise, but I think we’re ready and, hopefully we will get the necessary breaks.”
Looking at Sunday’s opposition, who have not won the FAI Cup in 51 years, Devine urged caution.
“St. Pat’s normally play a 4-3-3 formation as has been the case with so many teams in the Premier Division this year, but I think it’s important that we must be able to change and adapt depending on what happens during the game.
“We will be travelling to have a go. We will attempt to win the match - as we have always done - and I believe we are an attacking side with quite a few match-winners in the team.
“But St. Pat’s can also pass the ball for fun if we let them, so we must attempt to nullify their strengths in that regard as they also possess goal threats. I think our midfield sector will be very important on the day but I do believe it will be a wide open game played on a big pitch. The team which manages to control the ball will be in the driving seat,” maintained the Derry boss.
“We can’t afford to stand off them because they have players who can hurt us but our lads are all fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of St. Pat’s having played them three times this season. They have repsect for them, but Sunday will be a game in which we intend to pass the ball with confidence and play with a swagger. We will attempt to give a good account of ourselves as we try to win our fifth FAI Cup.
“All our key players have returned to fitness, they are back in the fold and our recent results have proved that we are capable of defeating the top teams when on song.”
With the momentum going with the “Candy Stripes,” Devine pointed to recent performances suggesting that a combination of the passing and movement exhibited in the 3-1 defeat of Shamrock Rovers, coupled with the hard graft and front to back defending against Shelbourne in the cup replay, would see his sided hard to beat.
“Against Shamrock Rovers we were absolutely excellent, we passed them off the park and we were disappointed not to have scored more than three goals. That was a fantastic performance, probably the best since I was appointed manager.
“We bossed the ball against Rovers but in the Shelbourne replay, the players worked so hard for each other. They defended from front to back and if we could merge those performances this Sunday, I can’t see us losing.
“This season we’ve had to risk players playing through the pain barrier when they should have been rested, but when our full squad was available, we always felt we were as good as the top teams and I think our end of season results have proved that yet again.
“We’re now moving forward with a few big wins behind us and, fingers crossed, we will get our just rewards on the day and, hopefully, be travelling home with the FAI Cup on Monday afternoon,” concluded Devine.