THE imminent return to action of Derry City’s great Scot, Stewart Greacen, will boost the “Candy Stripes” hopes of returning from Turner’s Cross with a favourable result this evening. (Kick-Off: 7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Confirming Greacen’s return to competitive duty in Cork, Brandywell boss, Declan Devine agreed that the robust centre-back would add solidity to his defensive unit which is considered essential in Cork.
“No one will doubt Stewart’s ability and leadership qualities and we certainly can be doing with those when playing at Turner’s Cross,” claimed Devine.
“While everyone will be thrilled that he’s about to return to competitive action after a three months lay-off, it’s also important to note that we have a few problems with injury and suspensions for the trip.
“Barry Molloy, who has sustained a knee injury and would not have been available in any case, is suspended as is Shane McEleney. Mark Farren and Brian McGroary are struggling with hamstring problems and did not travel either while Ruaidhri Higgins and Ryan McBride sustained knocks in last Sunday’s practise match, but I expect both to be declared fit to play against Cork,” confirmed Devine.
Team captain, Kevin Deery, remains in the treatment room having gone under the surgeon’s knife before the break, so Molloy’s absence will also necessitate changes in central midfield.
“Patrick McEleney has played in that role in the past and, indeed, has performed very well in that role, so we do have options and with Owen Morrison, Stephen McLaughlin and Davy McDaid all fit and anxious to play, we should be okay,” insisted the Derry boss.
Greacen’s return certainly pleased him. “It’s great to have Stewart back fully fit and ready to resume where he left off. We’ve certainly missed him since his operation and I honestly believe that had we managed to keep both Stewart and Kevin Deery fit during the opening half of the season, we would have been much closer to leaders, Sligo Rovers.
“That said, the lads had done well. We’re two points off St. Pat’s and three points off Shamrock Rovers despite having played one game more, so we’re still in there competing.
“And that’s what makes our match in Cork all the more important. But to go there you need a powerful partnership in central defence and I believe Stewart and young Ryan McBride will provide that. Their presence make us hard to beat and while we have not won at Turner’s Cross for quite some time in the league, we realised how difficult it was when winning the League Cup down there last season that’s to Eamon Zayed’s penalty.
Reflecting back on Monaghan United’s shock withdrawal from the Premier Division last Monday, Devine was disappointed but understood the difficulties associated with the border club.
“We have already been down the road of financial difficulty,” he answered. “We know what it’s like to go so close to going out of existence and I sympathise with all at Monaghan United.
“However, attendance figures are key in League of Ireland football and having visited quite a few venues over the first half of the current season, I must admit I’ve noticed a significant fall-off in attendance figures this season,” noted Devine.
“It’s so important that people support the clubs by attending matches, clubs cannot survive otherwise. We’ve opted to go down the road of developing our own players over recent years with our own youngsters attempting to excite our home support.
“And while we’ve done well in that regard with players such as James McClean moving on, it’s important that we try to sustain this type of development in order to keep the club alive.”
Devine also claimed that other clubs were close to going out of existence this season. “Monaghan United are now gone and I know that other clubs are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet. Some are finding it very difficult to pay their playing staff and I feel sorry for those genuine people who continue to battle to keep their clubs alive.
“With attendances falling off all over the country, I really don’t believe that Monaghan United will be the last team to go to the wall. I hope I’m wrong, but the future does not look good given the numbers attending games this season,” he concluded.