James McClean may well be the centre of attention as Derry City travel to the Carlisle Grounds in Bray tonight, but team boss, Stephen Kenny, will be hoping his left-winger produces the goods as he did in April at the same venue. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Indeed, Derry’s lively left-winger popped up to head home a goal in the dying minutes to give the “Candy Stripes” a 2-1 victory after what was a top class performance at what is a traditionally a very difficult venue.
And while McClean’s departure from the Brandywell appears to be imminent, Kenny was adamant that the player’s total focus was on helping his home town club build on last weekend’s superb victory over Shamrock Rovers.
The Dubliner also suggested that his prized asset has acted professionally throughout the weeks of speculation regarding his future and he believed the off-the-field attention would have no bearing on his consistent performances.
“Players are only human, but it’s very important that they focus on playing and enjoying their football despite what’s happening off the park. Those things will look after themselves, so it’s important that James continues to play to the best of his ability,” maintained Kenny.
“He is doing that and I’ve no doubt he will again give 100 per cent against Bray on Friday night. His attitude hasn’t changed and while I think it’s inevitable that he will move on to a higher level eventually, he also realises that we’re trying to achieve something that has never been done before this season.
“We are two points off the top of the table with 14 matches remaining and for a team to gain promotion from the First Division to compete for the Premier Division title in their first year back, is something that has never been done before, it’s unique.
“We’ve lost just three matches this season, so to sell one of our best players before the end of the season would be a poor decision. James McClean’s value will not depreciate between August and October.
“I’ve always felt that James would move on and, of course, we would never stand in the player’s way. He’s a brilliant lad with a great attitude and I’d like to see him win a league medal and help the team qualify for Europe next season,” added Kenny.
Travelling to Bray with a near full-strength panel, Kenny faces a dilemma.
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