Derry City manager, Declan Devine, is appealing to the people of Derry to get behind his team and help them to reach the final of the FAI Cup when they take on Shelbourne in their semi-final at Brandywell today. (Kick-off 1.45p.m.)
In an impassioned plea, Devine said that he wanted the supporters to make the Brandywell a “hostile” place for the Tolka Park team and their fans and added that their support makes all of the difference.
“Even you decide at the last minute you want to come along and cheer us on, do so, we need your support.
“I’d love it for the players if the Brandywell was to be bouncing today. The fans make all of the difference and they are our 12th man.
“When we played Linfield at the Brandywell in Setanta Sports Cup earlier this season, it was because of the fans that we got back into the game and won it 3-1.
“I think if the fans make the Brandywell a hostile place for Shelbourne and are boisterous and supportive we will have a great chance.”
Devine has come under pressure in recent weeks because of his side’s performance in the Premier Division.
Whilst comfortable with the criticism the Derry boss explained that for large parts of the season he has several key players missing as a result of injury but hastened to add that he wanted nothing more than to lead the Candy Stripes into the final of the FAI Ford Cup in the Aviva Stadium.
“We haven’t had our strongest team available to us all season and the reality is that I haven’t been near to having our strongest group of players to pick from at all.
“Kevin Deery was injured in pre-season, then Stewart Greacen got injured and then Rory Patterson has been missing for almost 16 weeks of the season.
“But the flip side to several of the key players being injured has meant that many of the younger players have stepped up to the mark.
“Barry McNamee, Ryan Curran, Caoimhinn Bonner, Michael Duffy and Michael Barr have all been given opportunities.
“Obviously the downside is that we are disappointed with how the league campaign has gone but the upside is that many of the young local players at this club are getting a chance to shine.”
He added: “Critics are critics and I am quite happy to take criticism. Our disappointing results have not been because of a lack of effort or desire. We have had our ups and downs and we always said that this season wasn’t going to be smooth.
“It’s been a tough transition for the football club but I am more concerned with the fact that we are in a semi-final of the FAI Cup. I want to give the fans something to sing about - I want them to be able to enjoy a cup final at the end of the season.”
Derry have faced off three times already this season. Shelbourne have won twice, including a 1-0 victory at the Brandywell but Devine’s men did take all three points on offer when they beat Alan Mathews’ men 2-0 at Tolka Park in August.
“The one thing I have learned this year is that every little detail is vitally important when preparing for any football match.
“We have all worked hard this week and we know what Shelbourne’s strengths and weaknesses are.
“Shelbourne’s biggest strengths are their attacking players. Paddy Kavanagh, Philly Hughes, Kevin Dawson and David Cassidy are all very talented footballers.
“I feel Shelbourne are a major threat when taking set pieces. I watched them against Drogheda United earlier this week and all but three of their starting XI that will start against us today were rested - that shows you the strength and dept they have in their team.
“They have an experienced squad and Alan Mathews needs no introduction when it comes to his achievements in the cup competitions.
“Be that as it may I am very confident that if the crowd get behind us tomorrow and the players give it their best shot and remember what we talked about earlier in the week, we will have a great chance of progressing to the final. Fingers crossed,” smiled Devine.