Five missing as Derry entertain ‘Students’

MONDAY’S disaster at the Sligo Showgrounds will see Derry City decimated for tonight’s encounter at the Brandywell against the students of UCD. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

Not only will Eddie McCallion, Kevin Deery and Emmet Friars sit out the game due to automatic one match bans, but the versatile Gareth McGlynn (groin) and midfield general, Barry Molloy (ankle) will not be involved in the squad.

Therefore, the absence of FIVE senior players will have given Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny, no shortage of headaches following what has proved a troublesome week in his managerial career.

In fact, Kenny has never managed a team which had three players dismissed, a statistic he certainly does not wish to experience again in his career.

But while frustrated and angry with so much that surrounded the Bank Holiday fixture, the Dubliner insisted the memory of that game must be forgotten with the focus now on giving a response against what is an in-form UCD side which has won its last two matches.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom as key centre-half, Stewart Greacen, returns to the set-up as does midfielder, Ruairi Harkin, who returned to full training sessions in midweek.

Thomas McBride and James Henry have also been included in the squad as the “Candy Stripes” attempt to consolidate their impressive second spot in the Premier Division table.

“We’ve got to put the sendings-off behind us now,” declared Kenny last night. “We made poor decisions on the day and I’m certainly not anxious to repeat the statistics record in the second half ever again,” he added.

But he also issued a warning to his playing staff.

“One thing we’ve got to learn, the days of placing a hand on an opponent’s back are over. We’ve conceded no fewer than five penalties in our last seven games, three of which were for ‘hands on the back,’ players are now happy to ‘hit the deck’ regardless of the referee’s decision.

“There is blatant diving inside the danger area and referees are pointing to the penalty spot. We conceded penalties against St. Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians and television evidence proved that they were very soft penalty awards, so we’ve got to be on our guard at all times.

“When a player receives a yellow card, he’s got to show restraint and be careful, it’s as simple as that,” he continued.

And while he refuse to lambast his players outside the dressing room, Kenny said he really should be heaping praise on them for their efforts so far this season.

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“Overall, the players have been absolutely terrific. We finished in second spot in the table after the first series of games and that, in itself, tells it’s own story as far as the players are concerned.

“We’ve enjoyed a tremendous start to our first season back in the Premier Division but just one bad half in a game means we’re now without five players for the visit of UCD which is very disappointing.”

Kenny, however, is not one for throwing in the towel and he held the view that tonight’s game not only presents a significant test for those involved in the squad, but it also offers a window of opportunity for those players wishing to command places in the first team.

“UCD will certainly provide us with a significant test. They’ve won their last two matches, including their home game against Sligo. They keep possession of the ball very well and they will do that in the Brandywell, so we must be patient in that regard.

“The boast both pace and skill so we must display a real collective spirit and unity if we are to overcome the loss of five senior players and we must attempt to produce a committed, determined performance in order to get back to wining ways.

“Quiet Performances”

When questioned on the recent below par performances of one of last season star players, Patrick McEleney, Kenny was quick to answer.

“Patrick has had a quiet season so far given that he’s failed to score, but given his quality I would be the first to back him to come good,” answered the Dubliner.

“Yes, he has had a few quiet games over the past few weeks since he returned from the FAI’s suspension and now is as good a time as any for him to put in the performances we would expect and return to his best form.

“However, I’m not going to get carried away. We’re still in second place and while we face two difficult games at home with Drogheda arriving up here next Tuesday night, I believe the players will rise to the challenge. In the past we have shown a superb capacity to do without important members of the team and to win games without them would certainly give us all a magnificent boost.

“We want a response to help eliminate last Monday’s defeat and even without the players who are suspended and injured, we are certainly capable of doing just that,” he conlcuded.

U.C.D. will be without their Letterkenny based striker, Cillian Morrison, who has been out for the past few weeks, but manager, Martin Russell, felt trips to the Brandywell are always difficult.

He said: “The Brandywell is always a challenging place for teams to travel to in the hope of getting positive results and I’ve no doubt that Stephen Kenny will have his players ready to bounce back from their recent setback.

“However, we’ve been playing well and we’re hopeful that we build on our recent good run of results and continue to move up the table.”

Derry, of course, have also drawn UCD in the League Cup quarter-final but the “Candy Stripes” must travel to the Belfield Bowl twice within the space of a few days as they are scheduled to play there in the League on Friday, June 24th with the cup quarter-final in midweek the following week.

Happy Harry

Meanwhile, Derry City supporter, Harry Doherty, from Drumard Park, Hazelbank, emerged the winner of the Derry City Monthly Draw for April.

Harry’s ticket, No. 662, was pulled out of the hat securing him with the main prize of £1,000. And due to last Monday’s Bank Holiday, this week’s Derry City Lotto Numbers were drawn in midweek. The numbers drawn were - 5, 12, 13 and 22 with the jackpot currently standing at £2,800.