DERRY CITY will be down to the “bare bones” for tonight’s Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final (second leg) against Linfield, according to Brandywell boss, Declan Devine.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The McEleney brothers, Shane and Patrick, were confined to bed yesterday having picked up a bug which has seen both players vomiting and while Patrick may have a chance of taking part in the game, it’s believed his older sibling Shane is not expected to make the panel.
Central midfielder, Ruaidhri Higgins has had several stitches inserted in a wound in his foot and is also considered a major doubt while Kevin Deery and Brian McGroary are probably one week away from returning to competitive action.
Therefore, Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, does not have his sorrows to seek and he agreed that it’s possible that three players may well be making their first starts of the season in tonight’s cup tie.
“Patrick and Shane McEleney have picked up what appears to be a stomach bug and while Patrick does not appear to be as bad as Shane, both players have been confined to bed and we won’t know how things are until Tuesday morning,” lamented Devine last night.
“In addition, Ruaidhri Higgins has had stitches inserted in his foot and while we’re considering strapping him up, it’s certainly not ideal but we’ll have to wait and see how he is,” added Devine.
Rory Patterson is ineligible and will not be involved, leaving Derry short in a number of key positions.
“We are clearly struggling and it just goes to show how vulnerable the squad can be when hit with injuries and illness,” noted Devine. “Simon Madden is also a doubt with a tight hamstring but he’s been receiving regular treatment and, fingers crossed, he will be okay to start the game.”
But rather that opting to be down-beat prior to the game, Devine said the absence of some would provide a window of opportunity for others to stake a major claim for first team duty.
“We’ve been working with a small first team squad and while some players may have to be patched up in order to compete, others will be starting for the first time this season and it’s up to those individuals to rise to the challenge.
“Players such as Ryan McBride, Mark Farren, Owen Morrison and Eddie McCallion now have an opportunity to make a major impact as I believe at least three players will be starting a game for the first time this season,” claimed Devine.
“It’s a big game for everyone involved, but we have every belief in the players we have at the Brandywell and we’re not overly worried about players coming in to do a job against Linfield.
“There’s no doubt that we will be facing a very tough game against a very strong Linfield side, but we expect all our playing staff to stand up and be counted when called upon and that will certainly be the case on Tuesday night.
“At 1-1 the tie is finely balanced but we’ll be playing in front of our own supporters at the Brandywell and I’ve no doubt that will lift our players. We will have a few changes to make, both in personnel and in a positional sense, but we’re confident that the players will give a good account of themselves and do everything in their power to see us qualify for the semi-finals of a major local competition.”
With Patterson ruled out, Farren is expected to join David McDaid in spearheading the Derry attack while Ryan McBride will join Stewart Greacen in the heart of the City defence with Shane McEleney not expected to make it.
Owen Morrison may be asked to operate on the right flank should Patrick McEleney be ruled out but it will be interesting to see who replaces Higgins in the centre of the park.
For Barry Molloy, who is expected to captain the side in the absence of Kevin Deery, it will be the midfield general’s 250th competitive match for his home town club.
“We were disappointed having lost 1-0 to Shelbourne at Tolka Park last Friday night and we’re looking for a response against Linfield. We expect to include a few changes but a victory over Linfield would prove to be a great result for the group and it would be a nice way to respond to Friday night’s defeat,” concluded Devine.