Derry City manager, Declan Devine, believes that despite beating St. Patrick’s Athletic 2-1 at the Brandywell on Friday evening, his team will still be second favourites when the sides meet again in the final of the FAI Ford Cup on November 4.
“We are absolute underdogs,” Devine told The Sunday Journal after the game.
“St. Pat’s are a quality side. They have played in Europe this season and tonight’s defeat was only their second on the road this season. They don’t have too far to travel for the game whilst our preparation will revolve around bus journeys and hotels.”
The Candy Stripes have hit a run of decent form in recent weeks. Friday’s win over the Saints was their final game of the league campaign but they will have to wait until next week to find out if they will finish in fifth place. Their final game of the season was due to be against Monaghan United but because of financial problems Monaghan no longer exist.
As a result of the good fortunes on the pitch, Devine will have tough team selection choices to make ahead of next month’s final.
“There will be a couple of players who will be upset over not starting in the final against St. Patrick’s Athletic next month but the reality is you can’t win an FAI Cup with eleven players. If we are going to be successful in the Aviva Stadium we are going to need everyone to be at the top of their game. It’s all about the squad and not just about the players who start the game.”
The Derry boss will become the fifth local manager to lead the Candy Stripes into an FAI Cup final but he’s the first manager in the club’s history to take them to a final in the Aviva Stadium.
“I am very proud because I have supported this club all of my life. From the final with Dundalk all those years ago, I have been to every single one either as a supporter, a player or as a coach, but now I am getting the chance to go to one as manager of this club.
“I was reading in tonight’s programme and I think there have been five people to take Derry City to FAI Cup finals – four of them are local men. So to join a list including Jim McLaughlin, Tony O’Doherty, Kevin Mahon and Felix Healy is very pleasing for me.
“But that said, I don’t want to think about it, I just want us to go there and win it. I think the players deserve enormous credit because of the way they have silenced some of the critics in recent weeks.
“It’s all about gearing towards the cup final. It won’t be about Declan Devine or Paul Hegarty or any particular player, it’ll be about the group of players, the club and the supporters.
“If we are to win in Dublin we are going to need every single person to get behind us. It won’t be down to one individual it will be down to what we can do as a city together to bring the trophy back up the road.”
Although many fans have been left to lament Derry’s home form this season, Devine said that had someone offered him the chance to be in two cup finals at the start of the season he would have taken it. The Creggan-born manager also said that he had been without several key players for most of the season and added that Friday’s result was a perfect example of what could be achieved when he had a full squad to choose from.
“In my first year as Derry City manager the team has reached two major cup finals. We are fifth in the Premier Division table at this minute in time and we will have to see where we finish next week but I have never seen an injury list as bad this season. Our suspension list hasn’t been good enough and our home form could have been better but I refuse to get caught up in it.
“We have a chance to get into Europe with one game to go. We have a chance of winning silverware with one game to go. Everyone can concentrate on the negatives but had someone offered me two major cup finals, to lose one one penalties and win the other in the Aviva Stadium at the start of the season, I’d have taken it.”
He continued: “I am sick of saying the same thing. We always believed that we could have a go at anyone if we had a full squad of players.
“I had to bring Barry Molloy off at half time because had he got a second yellow card he would have missed the cup final. In ideal world you wouldn’t want to take Barry Molloy off but we didn’t want to take any risks and being able to bring a player of Kevin Deery’s calibre on for Barry shows just how strong our team can be when everyone is fit.”
Devine went on to say that if his side are to stand any chance of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2006 then they will need everyone from the city to get behind them.
“One of the things that stands out for me is how the people of Donegal got behind the team for the All-Ireland final. You could sense it on the day how much it meant to the people of the county and I know we are not going to get that kind of support from our county but I certainly hope everyone from the city will get behind us in the same way.
“We are going to work hard for the next couple of weeks and we want to see as many Derry City supporters as possible for the first time at the Aviva Stadium in two weeks’ time. We have a local team here so it’d be great if the whole city could get behind them and cheer them on.
“I’d prefer another game next Friday but that’s not going to happen so we will continue to work hard over the next weeks. We have everything planned in terms of what we are going to do right down the final minute.”