FORMER Dundalk captain, Simon Madden, faces a battle against time to report fit for Derry City at the Brandywell tonight. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The right-back, who has made a very positive start to his first season wearing the “Candy Stripes,” is struggling with a calf problem but Derry boss, Declan Devine, was delighted that the player was much better yesterday than earlier in the week.
“We wrote him off during the week,” maintained Devine last night.
“However, he was much better today and it’s possible that he could be involved against his former club but we’ll not be taking any chances,” added the team boss.
“The same situation applied to Davy McDaid. Two hours before the Rovers match on Monday last we felt he had no chance of playing in Tallaght as he’s been nursing a kick to his Achilles, but his adrenalin took over. He insisted on playing through the pain barrier and I have to give him so much credit for that.
“Davy started against Rovers, he played a pivotal role in the victory and he’s reflected what so many other players have been prepared to do this season. He put his body on the line as has Mark Farren who is suffering with fatigue having played so many matches in such as short space of time.
“Mark’s had to lead the front line alone and the workrate he continues to put in has been absolutely amazing as he tries to get back to his best.”
Stewart Greacen and Rory Patterson (foot injury) are the only players definitely ruled out for Dundalk and while others too have a squeak, the chances are that Shane McEleney and Owen Morrison are probably the best bets to return this weekend.
So, with the Rovers return scheduled for this Monday, was Devine concerned that his players’ focus may not be fully trained on the visit of Dundalk tonight.
More Focus on
“We discussed that very point after the Rovers victory last Monday. We realise how important it is to remain focused on the game at hand and we must apply the same focus to the visit of Dundalk as we did for matches against Sligo and Shamrock Rovers.
“The players are professional, they are aware of the importance of taking it one game at a time and to be perfectly honest, we haven’t discussed the Rovers game in training at any stage this week.
“Dundalk is the immediate priority and after that we will prepare for the Rovers game on Monday and Stephen Kenny’s return to the Brandywell.”
Devine also rejected suggestions that Derry have one leg in the final having netted three times without reply last Monday night in Dublin.
“Stephen Kenny and Shamrock Rovers are more than capable of coming to the Brandywell and overturning our lead,” answered Devine.
“They have a top quality squad, having made eight chances to the team that faced us on Monday.
“We are fully aware of their riches in terms of quality players, so we’ll have to prepare and prepare well for what will be another challenge.”
Turning his attentions to Dundalk, Devine was hopeful that Madden would be available but, if not, he had no problem in again calling for youngster, Michael Barr, to step in to the right-back berth.
“He’s a great lad, he has not let himself or the team down when called upon and should Simon not make it, then Michael will be called in again. He’s another quality young player, one of quite a few at the club at the moment, and we will continue to attempt to develop and improve such players when opportunities arise,” claimed the team boss.
Dundalk, trounced 6-0 in Tallaght last Friday night, are expected to opt for a defensive approach when they arrive at Brandywell and in manager, Sean McCaffrey, they have a shrewd tactician.
“I know Sean very well and I can assure you, he will be fully aware of every player in our team. He had great experience in bringing young players through the international ranks and certainly knows the quality of our young players in particular.
“I’ve got to know him really well as we are doing our Pro Licence on the same course, so Sean will leave nothing to chance. Having lost heavily last week they now become dangerous opponents and we’ve got to be on our guard.
“I believe they will attempt to avoid defeat again but, at the same time, be prepared to hit us on the break and end the nightmare that was their result at Rovers.
“For us, it’s all about preparing professionally, playing at a high tempo and passing the ball to the best of our ability now that we’re back on home soil. It’s another big match for us and it’s one we really hope to take another positive result from,” concluded Devine.