Bohemians' celebrations provided extra motivation for Derry City: Devine

Derry City manager, Declan Devine believes there's everything to fight for in the race for third place.
Derry City manager, Declan Devine believes there's everything to fight for in the race for third place.

DECLAN DEVINE admitted Bohemians' celebrations after qualifying for Europe on Friday night had provided extra motivation for his Derry City side in their pursuit of third place.

The Candy Stripes moved to within three points of the Gypsies and boast a game in hand as they enter the final week of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division season.

Bohs had secured a 0-0 draw with St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park on Friday night which was enough to guarantee their place in the Europa League for the first time since 2012.

However, Devine, who watched the game live on RTE, claimed he was surprised to hear Bohemians receive plaudits for securing third place, given it remains very much up for grabs.

The City boss insists his immediate goal is to secure the point necessary to book Derry's place in the Europa League next year but he hasn't quite given up the ghost on finishing above Keith Long's men, despite suggestions it was out of reach.

"There's still third place to play for," insisted Devine. "It was interesting watching RTE last night with everyone congratulating Bohemians on third place. We've two games to win and if we win those two games we can push for third as well.

"If we can do that, to come from third from bottom to third from the top in a short period of time then it would be a magnificent achievement. There's no guarantees yet. We've a very difficult game on Tuesday first."

The Candy Stripes kept alive their European qualification hopes as they fought back from a goal behind to clinch a 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds on Saturday. And Devine's wild celebrations in front of the travelling City fans at the final whistle was evident of how important a result it was.

"We came here tonight and didn't have a game for 15 days. Everybody was celebrating in Dublin last night because they qualified for Europe and we had to make sure we did our business tonight.

"We're in a healthy place. We're not over the line yet but we're in a very healthy place leading into the last two games.

There's going to be a lot of twists and turns for us not to make Europe but we've got to go about our job.,

It was a huge win considering we went behind. We weren't at our best on a difficult pitch. We weren't free flowing at all. We definitely ground out the win. We worked extremely hard and showed terrific character to take all three points especially when the pressure was on.

"We showed endeavour and effort. It wasn't a pitch where there was a lot of technical ability on show but we knew coming here we would have to work extremely hard because we knew Sligo weren't going to lie down and we know anytime anyone plays Derry City they always put it up to us.

"We're only starting. We've come a long way in a short period of time but there's no prizes handed out tonight. We have to make sure we do our job on Tuesday."

Two home wins to finish the season off could secure the club's highest finish since they last finished in third in 2016 during Kenny Shiels' first season in charge. The 2019 team has already amassed 12 points more this season than they managed in the entire 2018 campaign and it's certainly been a major success story since Devine returned to the club.

However, the City boss isn't prepared to rest on his laurels.

"No matter what happens this year we've got to strive to get better next year," he said. "We've got to make sure our defensive record and attacking record continues to improve.

"It's not a short term plan over 10 months. We've got to look at improving all aspects of our game, all aspects of our club. We have a lot of young players at the club and we want to help them grow. We want to make sure we grow the club.

"I'm very proud of what they've put in so far but there's certainly no celebrating at the minute, We've another big game on Tuesday. If we can finish it off on Tuesday and qualify for Europe and then have a go at finishing third on Friday, then for me that would be a magnificent year."