DERRY City were presented with a home draw in the semi-final of the Ford FAI Cup last night, with bitter rivals Shelbourne making the trip to Foyleside on Sunday, October 7th next.
In the second semi-final, which will be played on the same day, Dundalk have secured home advantage against the winners of last night’s quarter-final replay between Drogheda United and St. Patrick’s Athletic - both games to be televised ‘live’ by RTE.
For Derry, who came out of the hat first, it’s a superb draw and while Brandywell boss, Declan Devine refused to get carried away, the fact that the local club will not face yet another trip to Dublin was warmly welcomed.
“The priority was to secure a home draw and I’m absolutely delighted that we have achieved that,” said Devine..
“We will face Shelbourne who have already defeated us at the Brandywell, while we recorded a victory over them in Tolka Park, so it’s very much a 50-50 game,” he insisted.
“However, given that we’ve received a home tie I think it’s very important that we attempt to secure every possible advantage and much will rest on the attitude of our home support.
“Most teams have feared coming to the Brandywell in the past and while this season has been disappointing by our own standards, we now have an opportunity to qualify for a final which will be staged in the Aviva Stadium in November and that would be something to look forward to.
“We’ve reached this stage of the competition and we would dearly like to secure some measure of success this year; we’ve got a chance and we must be focused, well prepared and determined when the match comes around next month.”
While happy with the draw, the Derry boss claimed his focus was on this Friday night’s game against UCD, also at the Brandywell, and he had high hopes that a few of his injury players would be returning to fitness.
“We want to finish the season on a high given the difficulties we have to deal with this year. We have players returning to fitness but I can’t ignore the effort put in and the performances exhibited by so many of our youngsters this season.
“At last, we will have competition for places and that’s a problem I would dearly like to be dealing with as the final five or six matches approach,” declared Devine.
“The players will be the first to realise that places in the team for the semi-final are now up for grabs and it’s up the players to compete for the right to be selected.
“We want to build on the performance we gave against Mervue last weekend. We seem to have rediscovered our scoring touch and it’s very important that we maintain that in front of goal. Our season is far from over; we could now experience an exciting end to a campaign which has been frustrating, so things remain very much alive for us.”
Delighted at last Friday night’s display against the First Division strugglers, Devine heaped praise on his players.
“People will point to the fact that Mervue are a First Division side, but we couldn’t afford to take anything for granted against them.
“They travelled to Waterford and produced a superb performance in the lsat round winning their replay 4-0.
“So to give the performance we did and, importantly, score the goals we netted, gave me great satisfaction.
“We started at high tempo and dictated the play. We scored early which, obviously, proved to be a big help, but we never looked complacent or lethargic.
“The players were focused throuhgout and despite leading 3-0 at the break, they continued to force the issue and added another four goals in the second half.
“A result like that, even against a First Division club and I don’t mean any disrespect whatsoever to Mervue, was significant.”
With Mark Farren receiving all the plaudits, Devine was the first to congratulate his striker.
“I’m absolutely delighted that Mark has surpassed Liam Coyle’s total of 112 goals, but now I’m hopeful that he will score a few more between now and the end of the season and totally smash Liam’s record. I’d like to see Mark set a target that will never be surpassed.
“He’s been at the club for almost 10 years and we all know what he’s been through. But now he’s back to fitness and while he will be moving on at the end of the season to take up a new challenge at Glenavon, I’d love to see him go out with a bang and, maybe, even an FAI Cup winners’ medal,” smiled Devine.
“While Mark’s hat-trick was rightly recognised by everyone on the night, I think the achievement, significant as it was, actuallly overshadowed so many things in our performance.
“Young Barry McNamee proved to us that he can play at this level; David McDaid continues to be an unsung hero having added another brace of goals to his tally; Ryan Curran netted his first senior goal for his home town club, while Kevin Deery made the first steps in his return to competitive action after an injury plagued season.”
And Devine clearly wanted to end the campaign on a high.
“Weve played very well in quite a few games this season, yet we were never rewarded for those performances. At times we did not get the results we deserved but despite our injury situation, we continued to battle, I couldn’t ask for any more.”