DERRY City midfielder, Ruaidhrí Higgins, has played down the Brandywell club’s favourite’s tag ahead of tomorrow’s Setanta Sports Cup showdown with Crusaders.
It is an intriguing clash between the League of Ireland and Irish League, with the full-time philosophy of the Brandywell side appearing to tip the odds in their favour. But for 27-year-old Higgins, tomorrow’s decider at The Oval is too close to call.
Asked whether his side deserved to be labelled favourites for the clash, he said: “I wouldn’t say that. Any team that beats Sligo over two legs warrants respect. They are a very good side.
“We know how difficult it is to try and beat Sligo, but Crusaders did that. I wouldn’t say there is a clear favourite going into the game.”
Higgins doesn’t believe there is a significant gulf in class between teams in the Irish League and those playing under the FAI banner.
“I don’t really see much difference,” he added. “Maybe the only thing is that in our league, the bottom teams can beat the top teams quite easily. I don’t think you would see that so much in the Irish League.
“But the top half of the Irish League would be very competitive in our division.
“I have never played against Crusaders, but we got the chance to watch them on Saturday in the Irish Cup final. And they obviously got the chance to watch us on Friday night as well.
“Both clubs have lost their last game, but over the course of the season Crusaders won the League Cup and reached the finals of the Irish Cup and Setanta Cup. So obviously they are a very good cup side.
“It makes for a great game on Saturday. Our cup pedigree in the last five or six years has been very good as well, so it looks like it could be an exciting game.”
Higgins admits the buzz around the Brandywell is starting to swell in the build-up to the Setanta showpiece.
“It is a big competition for the people of Derry,” he said. “I suppose being from the north, and playing in the south, it means a lot to the people and it is something we have always wanted to win.
“Now we have the chance to do it on Saturday, we are really looking forward to it.
“There has been a lot said about the Setanta Cup in recent years, but it is still a massive competition to me and to Derry City.
“It is something you want to look back on at the end of your career, and if you can win it, then it is something you want to look back on with good memories.
“Winning an all-Ireland competition would be a fantastic achievement. We would know a bit about Crusaders because people at our club keep in touch with the Irish League.
“They will know about Derry City as well, so it should be an interesting game.”
Meanwhile, Crusaders skipper, Colin Coates believes lifting the Setanta Sports Cup would be a “massive achievement” for the club.
The Shore Road men have dusted themselves down following their Irish Cup defeat to Linfield five days ago and they now have the chance to bounce back in style.
“I think winning the Setanta would be massive,” Coates said. “I said at the weekend if I had to choose between the Irish Cup and the Setanta Cup, I would go for the latter.
“It is an All-Ireland competition with all the best teams involved. I think it would be unbelievable to lift it. I have never won the Setanta either so it is something I would like to do with Crusaders.
“We missed out on the Irish Cup on Saturday, but now all our focus is on this weekend’s game against Derry City. We know it will be a tough test.”
Coates also believes the Crues are due some success following their Irish Cup disappointment.
“When you reach two finals you think to yourself, ‘well, I might win one.’ We have lost the Irish Cup so now we have to win the Setanta.
“Maybe there is more pressure on us to win this. We don’t want to end the season with two defeats, and both those defeats coming in big cup finals.
“If we win on Saturday it would ease the pain of losing the Irish Cup.”
Bus to Final
The Pride of Northside Derry City Supporters Club is running a coach to tomorrow’s Setanta Sports Cup final at The Oval, Belfast. A few seats are still available and anyone wishing to travel should contact Mickey on 71351837 or 07763770938, or any club member.
DC Academy Cancelled
The Derry City Academy for children will be cancelled tomorrow due to the Setanta Cup Final but will recommence on Saturday, May 19th at 1.30pm in the Brandywell Showgrounds.