The Final Push

�/Lorcan Doherty Photography
�/Lorcan Doherty Photography
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THE 2012 season may be finishing too early for Derry City centre-back, Stewart Greacen, but having qualified for the FAI Cup Final, the rugged Scot has set his sights on playing in the Aviva Stadium on November 4th.

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

In fact, the 30-years-old defender played in his first ever final at Turner’s Cross last season when the “Candy Stripes” defeated Cork City in the EA Sports League Cup showpiece and having enjoyed that occasion, he believes to play in Ireland’s top football stadium would be something special.

“Unfortunately, having played for so long in Scotland, if you are not a member of the Old Firm, then it’s highly unlikely that you will be playing in many finals,” smiled Greacen who played a starring role against Shamrock Rovers last Saturday night.

“I think we did really well to qualify for the FAI Cup final and it’s certainly given everyone at the club a great boost. But there’s no point in playing in a cup final unless to you go all out to win it and I think that’s the mentality everyone has adopted.

“St. Pat’s are a top side but I think we’ve shown that we can play against and beat the best of them on our day,” he added.

Reflecting back to Saturday night’s superb 3-1 victory over the reigning champions in Tallaght Stadium, Greacen said his side had produced a “magnificent performance” on the night.

“Travelling to play Shamrock Rovers in their own backyard is never an easy game but we produced a magnificent performance on the night,” claimed the Scot.

“I was delighted with the attitude and the workrate of our players. It’s always tough down there but once we scored early, we never really looked back. We were excellent all over the pitch and when you consider the fact that we played Shelbourne the previous Sunday in Derry, travelled to Dublin to play them in the replay on Wednesday and then returned to Dublin last Saturday, I think it says quite a lot about the effort put in by the players.

“I saw it as a really good team performance and to be totally honest, I haven’t seen us pass the ball as well for quite some time. Rovers failed to respond as we worked really hard from the front-line right back to our defence and that made it a bit easier for the back four, so full credit to the lads in front of us,” he noted.

“It was one of our best performances of the season. It was a really comfortable win and luck had nothing to do with it, we played so well as a team and punished any mistakes they made. We all knew our jobs, we worked hard for each other and we were rewarded for what was a superb team effort.”

Delighted For McNamee

Greacen was also delighted that youngster, Barry McNamee, netted the third goal which put the game to bed.

“Barry scored a superb goal, his first for the club and he’s a young boy who continues to show up well for us. Obviously, he’s still learning the game and I think he’s really enjoying his current run in the first team, which is great for him.

“And there are other young lads battling hard to get a first team place so it keeps everyone on their toes and means no-one can take anything for granted these days.”

But Greacen also pointed to the importance of the return to action by quite a few key players in the first team squad. Indeed, the Scot has missed the vast majority of the season due to two troublesome knee problems and ankle ligament damage.

“Thankfully, I’ve put the injury problems behind me and yes, the season is finishing too soon for me. So I think it’s important that I continue to play games in an effort to get fully match-fit and get my match sharpness back.

“Having a cup final to look forward to is great and with experienced players such as Kevin Deery and Rory Patterson now back challenging for places and young Stephen McLaughlin also back to full fitness, I think we’ll all be anxious to play in the final two matches. I believe we have a decent side and hopefully we can get two wins to finish the season on a high,” he concluded.

Team Effort Vital

For Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, plans for the FAI Cup Final will only be discussed after this Friday night’s final league match in the Brandywell, interestingly against FAI Cup Final opponents, St. Patrick’s Athletic!

“Preparations for the cup final are very important, so Saturday’s match against Shamrock Rovers proved to be the start of those preparations and this Friday night’s game against St. Pat’s will prove to be equally important,” claimed the Creggan man.

“Training and playing these matches is vitally important. Players must continue to live their lives properly and give of their best to make sure that they give themselves the best possible opportunity to win a major trophy.”

But was he prepared to “show his hand” given that St. Pat’s will play at the Lone Moor Road venue this weekend?

“We will field a strong squad against St. Pat’s this weekend, make no mistake about that. St. Pat’s know everything they need to know about us having played us twice already, so there will be no surprises.

“We want to finish the season strongly as we can still qualify for the Setanta Sports Cup through our league position so it’s important that we try to add another three points to our tally and, at the same time, keep the momentum going prior to the cup final next month.

“Players such as Stewart Greacen, Kevin Deery, Stephen McLaughlin and Rory Patterson all need matches and while Rory will not play against St. Pat’s as he faces a one match suspension, the other three will be involved.

“We must keep their confidence levels at a high. The players must also realise that there is nothing to fear as they showed against Shamrock Rovers last weekend. No one will be rested for the visit of St. Pat’s,” insisted.

“We’ve missed so many players due to the injury crisis through the season, so why rest players? That doesn’t make sense, those coming back need matches and they will play against Pat’s in the Brandywell this weekend.

“Several of those players have played the bare minimum of first team games - Greacen, Deery, Patterson and McDaid - so they need games. Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers have gone and we’ve done really well against them. Now we face St. Pat’s and, hopefully, we will come through that test and then focus on the trip to the Aviva Stadium next month,” he concluded.