Derry City manager, Declan Devine, will wait until the last minute before deciding if midfielder Barry Molloy can start against Shelbourne in the semi-final of the FAI Ford Cup at the Brandywell today. (Kick-off 1.45p.m.)
Molloy, who has been arguably Derry’s best player all season, is in a race to be fit after sustaining a hip flexor problem.
“I am going to wait to the last minute for Barry Molloy,” Devine told the Sunday Journal yesterday.
“I am very hopeful that Barry will be declared fit but in terms of the team as a whole, the panel of players I have had to pick from for the game with Shelbourne is the strongest I have had all season.
“For large parts of the season, I haven’t been able to field, what I would regard as our strongest squad but I am hopeful that in the hours before the semi-final we will have our strongest squad available to us.”
Devine and the rest of the Derry City team will meet up at 10.30a.m. today before going to Pitcher’s Restaurant for a team breakfast.
The Derry boss said that he wants his players relaxed going into today’s game with Alan Matthew’s men and explained that should they win, managing his hometown club in a final in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin would be the “highlight” of his career so far.
“It’s a strange and unusual time for a semi-final so I want us to meet up nice and early and go for breakfast together.
“Immediately after the Dundalk game on Tuesday night, we started talking about Shelbourne and I want the players to be focused as early as possible on Sunday morning.
“We have sown the seed in terms of what we believe Shelbourne’s strengths and weaknesses to be but the days leading up to the semi-final have been all about us.
“It’s a game that I want our players to embrace. I don’t want any tension or nerves because the reality is, it’s another game of football but with a big prize at the end of it.”
He continued: “To take this club to the FAI Cup final in the Aviva Stadium would be the highlight of my career.
“I have suffered the set-backs of losing cup semi-finals and finals as both a player and a coach so to lead Derry out in another cup final would be a fantastic feeling for myself but it’s not really about that for me.
“It’s more about the players getting respectability back into this club again. I feel that if we can do that then we’ll give ourselves a great chance of winning.”
Derry have played Shelbourne three times this season already. The Dubliners have won two of three bouts, including a 1-0 win over Devine’s men at the start of June. However, Derry came away with all three points when they won 2-0 in Tolka Park at the end of August.
“I don’t read anything into the previous games. It’s a cup semi-final and anything can happen. Shelbourne are a good side and we will have to be at our best - it’s that simple,” said Devine.