DERRY City may well benefit from an unexpected two weeks break from competitive action, but the club’s squad players will welcome much needed game time when they travel to near neighbours, Institute, tonight. (Kick-off: 7.30 p.m.)
And while Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, will not take any risks with players who may be nursing minor knocks, he’s anxious to see how his strikers will perform at the Riverside Stadium.
Indeed, Mark Farren is expected to lead the front line in the company of Conor Murphy with youngsters Mathew Rooney and Ryan Curran also expected to get some much needed match practise.
Farren, who is now back in full training, will definitely start tonight’s game having opted to turn down an 18 months full-time contract with Sligo Rovers last week despite having passed a medical.
But for Devine, who refused to stand in the player’s way had he wished to leave, Farren’s change of heart proved to be a boost for the team boss.
“We have quite a few players who need to get matches under their belts, no more so that Mark who will now remain with us until the end of the season at least,” declared the Brandywell boss.
“I think we’ve lost enough players and I certainly don’t want to lose any more before the end of October. Mark has opted to remain with us and I’m happy with that and, hopefully, he will now go on and break Liam Coyle’s all-time scoring record of 112 goals,” he added.
“He needs two goals to equal Liam’s record and I’m hopeful that he will do much better than that and set a target that will never be surpassed. Mark is certainly capable when in form and now that his injuries are behind him, I’m hoping that he will finish the season on a bright note, scoring goals for fun as he has done throughout his career.”
With Farren returning to fitness, Devine would dearly love to have a selection dilemma for the final months of the season.
“As a manager, I need competition for places now that we’ve reached the business end of the season and it would be nice to enter the final furlong with everyone fit and well. That scenario would present me with a selection problem and that’s a situation I would really welcome,” smiled the Creggan man.
Looking forward to this evening game, Devine agreed that matches against Institute over the years had always been competitive.
“There is usually an edge to these types of games, so Tuesday night’s match should present us with a good opportunity to look at quite a few players who have been on the periphery of the first team squad this season.
“Players such as Michael Barr, Barry and Tony McNamee, Caoimhinn Bonner and Michael Duffy, among others, all need games and the same situation applies to regular first team squad players such as Mark Farren, Conor Murphy, Matt Rooney and Eugene Ferry.
“Quite a few of those have spent quite some time on the subs’ bench this season with a few of them yet to start a game, so they will be given an opportunity against Institute to show us what they can do.”
Injury Crisis Abating?
And with one eye now focused on next Friday week’s visit to the Brandywell of Bohemians, Devine was delighted that his injury crisis seems to be abating.
“Stewart Greacen is now taking part in full training sessions and I would expect him to be available for the Bohemians match. Rory Patterson has been doing quite a lot of running with our physio and, thankfully, he’s had no reaction to his hamstring injury which is fantastic news.
“So the signs for those two are very positive with Kevin Deery possibly a week behind them, but he’s been working hard and also making good progress,” noted Devine.
There was also positive news following a scan to Patrick McEleney’s knee, the 19-year-old stretchered off during the recent Shamrock Rovers game at the Lone Moor Road venue.
“I’m absolutely delighted that our fears of serious knee damage have been dismissed,” confirmed the Derry boss. “We’ve received the results of Patrick’s scan and everything is good. There’s no major damage, just severe bruising around the knee and that has to be a massive plus for us.
“Obviously, he will not be involved against Institute but he will return fit and well for the Bohemians game on Friday week.”
‘Stute will use tonight’s game to prepare for their Championship opener on Saturday when they travel to face Carrick Rangers. Admission to this evening’s game is £5 and £3 concessionary.
Derry’s International Call-Ups
Meanwhile, the performances of Derry City striker, David McDaid, will be recognised at international level next week, the 20-year-old called into the Northern Ireland squad for the trip to Budapest to face Hungary.
And Devine was delighted when learning of the news this week. “We could never question Davy’s loyalty and commitment to him home town club and the fact that he has netted some vitally important goals for us this season.
“Personally, I’m absolutely delighted that Steve Robinson has called him into the N. Ireland Under-21 squad and I think David will gain great experience at international level and, obviously, that will help us.
“He continues to work his socks off both in training and in matches and I’m sure all our supporters will be delighted to see him gain international recognition for his efforts this season,” concluded Devine.
Former Derry City players Paddy McCourt and Daniel Lafferty have been called into Michael O’Neill’s senior squad while Newcastle United’s Shane Ferguson has also been called up, the Eglinton lad having already made his debut at senior international level earlier this year.