DROGHEDA United clearly held the Indian Sign over Derry City last season, and given the opening fixtures for the new season, Declan Devine will be sick of the sight of the “Boynesiders” having to play them three times over the next three weeks!
Derry lost all three league games last season - 2-0 and 2-1 at Hunky Dorys Park and 3-0 at the Brandywell - so Devine could be forgiven for being fed-up shaking the hand of close friend, Mick Cooke at the opening battle at the Brandywell next Monday night in the Setanta Sports Cup.
The away leg of the quarter-final tie will follow before “The Drogs” return to the Lone Moor Road venue on Monday, March 18th, for an Airtricity League fixture.
Fully aware of the tough opening itnerary faced by his troops, Devine will take it one game at a time with his total focus on Monday night’s Setanta Cup fixture, a competition which promised so much, yet delivered so little last season.
Having defeated both the Irish League and League of Ireland champions, Linfield and Shamrock Rovers, on their way to last year’s final, Derry failed to finish strongly at The Oval, Crusaders forcing the game into extra-time with a late, late goal before winning 5-4 on penalties.
And Devine still harbours hurtful memories of that particular match.
“It was a game we were clearly capable of winning,” he insisted. “Having produced superb displays against Linfield and Rovers on our way to the final, we were the clear-cut favourites to win the trophy.
“But we had our problems with quite a few experienced players injured for the game and the fact that The Oval pitch was certainly not conducive to our free-flowing style, didn’t make it any easier.
“Having been held 2-2 after extra-time, we lost out on penalties but, for me, that hurtful defeat proved to be a huge learning curve for our inexperienced squad last term.
“I think our young players remembered that defeat as we prepared for the FAI Cup Final and to have defeated St. Pat’s in the Aviva Stadium last November, it seemed to lessen the blow and the hurt,” he declared.
“The players certainly learned from the experience, but that final has been forgotten and now it’s time to push on and attempt to take it a step further in 2013,” smiled the Derry boss.
However, as was the case at the start of his tenure as a manager, Devine does not have his sorrows to seek on the injury front with suspensions also compounding those issues.
“Sean Houston, who twisted an ankle at Finn Park last Sunday could be out for up to six weeks with ligament damange. And the fact that the Letterkenny man can also operate in defence doesn’t help us either,” added Devine.
Dermot McCaffrey sustained a groin injury during last Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat of Institute, so Devine has now been presented with a problem at left-back.