Derry City manager, Declan Devine, last night refused to hint at which players will be included in his starting XI in today’s FAI Ford Cup final against St. Patrick’s Athletic in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (3.30pm, Live on RTE2).
The 39 year-old Derry boss has had his ups and downs with injuries and suspensions all season but in the weeks running up to today’s showpiece he has had a full squad to choose from.
The return of Northern Ireland international, Rory Patterson, to action gives Devine more options up front with leading goal scorer David David proving a likely candidate to start.
The recent displays from 20 year-old Barry McNamee could mean that Ruaidhri Higgins becomes displaced but despite persistent questioning Devine refused to give anything away.
“I have an idea of what way I want us to play but nothing is set in stone yet - we will firm everything up on Sunday morning,” he told the Sunday Journal.
The Candy Stripes left Derry after midday yesterday and travelled south to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, just outside Dublin. The players then boarded the team bus again and were taken to the Aviva Stadium to familiarise themselves with the stadium’s surroundings before today’s big game.
“I think we have only lost two games in Dublin all season,” said Devine.
“We have been decent away from home but the last four or five weeks have been really positive. We won our last four league games and I have a full squad to pick from - I don’t think we could be in better shape.”
Derry’s last game of the league campaign, coincidentally, was against St. Patrick’s Athletic at the Brandywell. Devine’s men ran out 2-1 winners that night and the Creggan born manager said that come 6p.m. this evening, he hopes that the players will be celebrating a similar score line.
“It’s going to be a great occasion for everyone involved with the club. All of our families and friends will be there and if we are coming out of the Aviva Stadium with the trophy under our arms we will be all very happy indeed. I want us to win it for the fans.
“The players have worked very hard the last few weeks and I am under no illusions that the win we enjoyed over St. Patrick’s Athletic a few weeks ago means nothing in terms of Sunday’s final but the same result would be nice,” he smiled.
St. Patrick’s Athletic finished 16 points ahead of Derry in the Airtricity Premier Division and are being tipped by many to win today’s final. Devine acknowledged that his side are underdogs but reaffirmed his belief in his players.
“The players, the backroom staff and the supporters have worked hard to get here. We know that we are a team full of skill and ability and with a bit of luck in the final it could go either way.
“St. Pat’s deserve to be favourites - just look at how far above us they finished in the league this season but on cup final day the trophy is there for the taking and hopefully it’s us who take it.”