Brian Maher says belief is strong in Derry City camp as they bid to bridge 26 years gap
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For the first time since the beginning of July, Ruaidhri Higgins' troops have enjoyed the luxury of having a full week to recover and prepare for a league fixture ahead of tonight's trip to Dundalk - a game which could have a significant repercussions on the race for the championship.
With the Europa Conference League and the FAI Cup a glorious distraction no more, Maher has enjoyed having time to focus solely on Derry's 'final stretch' of an eventful season.
And the City goalkeeper insists no one in the camp has been feeling sorry for themselves with their focus fully on Friday's potentially season-defining trip to Oriel Park.
"I'd say the big difference is that this is probably the first time in a while we've had a week to prepare for a game whereas it was sometimes just one day of preparation at stages during Europe," said Maher.
"We're getting to really look at teams and also recover properly and get recovery days we weren't able to get in a while ago. So I think that's probably the biggest difference and there' no distractions now. It's nine games to see how far we can go."
Belief is still strong among the in-form Derry players that they can be the first to bridge that 26 years gap since the Brandywell club's last league triumph despite trailing leaders Shamrock Rovers by seven points albeit with a game in hand over their title rivals who they meet at Brandywell on September 15th.
"It's a big game. We're coming into the final stretch. We're just trying to get our preparation done right and you shouldn't need anything to get you up for a game like this.
"We'll just take care of these next two games on their own merits and then there's a little break before the Rovers games.
"So if we could go into that break with two wins I think we'll be in a good place."
The City No.1 reckons Derry, who have lucked out in recent games, are due their share of fortune in the coming weeks.
"I think we're due a bit of fortune nearly all year. We had two games in three or four days and didn't get beat in either but found ourselves out of two competitions.
"So I think we would be allowed to feel a little bit hard done by but there's no one in there feeling sorry for themselves. I think we put in another really good performance on Friday at Bohs and probably could've come away with more as well.
"We're playing well and know we're playing well so we'll just keep going. We know we're not in a bad position. There's a lot of games to be played. We just need to keep hanging around in there and win as many games as we can. Hopefully that starts on Friday at Oriel."
Victory over Dundalk would be a monumental result given Rovers host fourth placed Bohemians and second placed St Pat's take on Shelbourne who remain in the hunt for Europe in fifth.
"All the top six are playing each other so if you get a win you're obviously going to gain on people around you. With it being such a big round of games, we still need to just focus on ourselves but we know if we win we'll be in a better place when 10 o'clock comes on Friday."