PAUL Hegarty believes that having defeated both the Irish League and League of Ireland champions in the Setanta Sports Cup, Derry City must now overcome Crusaders in tomorrow afternoon’s final or their previous efforts will have been in vain. (Kick-off: 4.00 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And the Brandywell club’s assistant boss, who supervised this week’s training sessions due to the fact that manager, Declan Devine, was in Geneva as part of his Pro-Licence Coaching Badge, expected a major battle at The Oval.
“I think it will be a major test for us,” said Hegarty last night. “I watched them lose to Linfield in the Irish Cup final last weekend and Crusaders are a physically strong team.
“They are big side and I’ve no doubt that they will be asking questions of us. They will pump the ball in on top of our defence and it’s so important that we be in a position to deal with that,” he added.
“They will get chances against us, particularly in set-piece situations, so we’ve got to be switched on at all times and remain fully focused.”
He felt that last Saturday’s 4-1 defeat by Linfield was not a fair reflection on the cup final and given that Crusaders took their fair share of criticism in the Press afterwards, he believed they would use that as motivation for tomorrow’s game.
“They will be smarting after the Irish Cup defeat and, to be fair to them, it certainly wasn’t a 4-1 game but they took a hammering in the Press afterwards and they will be out to prove a point against us,” maintained the Donegal man.
However, rather than concentrate on the Belfast side, Hegarty has a great belief in his players despite what’s been a very poor return from their last six Airtricity League matches.
“I expect the game to develop into a battle and much will depend on how we come out of that. However, I also expect us to play to our potential by passing the ball well and, hopefully, taking the chances we may create in front of goal.
“We have injuries to key players with Stewart Greacen (knee), Kevin Deery (knee) and Mark Farren (hamstring) all ruled out, but we’ve had to deal with this situation in our previous games and we must do that again.”
Left-winger, Stephen McLaughlin, is also a major doubt for tomorrow according to Hegarty who will leave the decision on the Inishowen man’s fitness until the last possible moment.
“Kevin Deery will undergo an operation on Monday on his knee and he’s expected to be out of action for between eight and 12 weeks.
“Stewart Greacen is doing his rehab having had surgery on a cartilage while the Crusaders game has come too soon for Mark Farren who has torn a hamstring, so we have a few changes to make,” continued Hegarty.
“Stephen McLaughin picked up an ankle injury against St. Pat’s last weekend and he has not trained this week. We will leave the decision on his fitness to the last possible moment but Patrick McEleney returns from suspension and Shane McEleney returned as a substitute last week and he got through that game without any difficulty.”
Hegarty was delighted that Rory Patterson got 90 minutes under his belt against St. Pats and was involved in every training session this week.
“Everyone wants to play in a cup final and there were very few who would have predicted a Derry v Crusaders Setanta final this season, so it’s a massive game for both clubs.
“Crusaders will be dangerous opponents but if we can win our battles and play the football we are capable of, then we will have a change. We had to pull out all the stops against both Linfield and Shamrock Rovers and we may well have to pull out a few more against Crusaders,” concluded Hegarty.