Derry City are now 'realistic challengers' to Shamrock Rovers and 'craving' FAI Cup success: says Ruaidhri Higgins

RUAIDHRI Higgins says there’s no point playing down Derry City’s hunger to win the FAI Cup title this season and he has full confidence his team can move one step closer by defeating Shamrock Rovers on Sunday.

The Derry boss insists the Brandywell club are ‘craving’ a day out at the Aviva Stadium next month and are fully focussed on reaching the semi-finals by knocking out Stephen Bradley’s troops.

The Foylesiders are hot on the heels of the Dubliners in the league title race and Higgins is confident his team have closed the gap on the champions significantly, describing his team as ‘realistic challengers’.

The one point difference in the league table and the three head-to-head performances against the Tallaght outfit this season would back that opinion.

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Higgins has been cautious this year when asked if his team were capable of knocking Rovers off their perch in the league but he was bold in his reply when asked if Derry were capable of taking their scalp in this Sunday’s cup quarter-final.

“Given the history we have in the cup, people will want a day out in November, there’s no doubt about that,” he began, “Our supporters crave it. I crave it and the players crave it. I’m not going to hide behind that fact.

“When we were going through a really good start to the season I was accused of playing stuff down because, at that time, I didn’t feel we had the depth that we do now to be realistic challengers.

“I’m not playing this down. We want to win the cup and to win the cup we need to beat Shamrock Rovers and I know we’re capable of that. We’ve put an absolutely brilliant run together and God knows what could happen but with the group we have now there’s no point trying to play it down. We want to go and win the cup. And we have a team more than capable of going and doing that.

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Will Patching missed a penalty as Derry City were held to a scoreless draw against Shamrock Rovers when the teams last met at Brandywell this season.

“However, the champions are coming to town on Sunday. The best team in the country. The games have been really tight between us this year but with the help of our home crowd at a sold out Brandywell, we’ll have a rattle at them.

“Ultimately we’re two games from getting to the Aviva Stadium and that’s the way we have to think. Sunday is a huge test but one I’m sure the players are more than capable of passing.”

It’s one win and a draw apiece in the three previous meetings between the teams this season and Derry arguably could’ve won all three. Higgins is delighted with the progress his side has made in such a short space of time.

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“We’re only 18 months into it and we’ve come a long way but we have ambitions to go on and win trophies. We have an opportunity on Sunday to get one step closer and we’ll be doing everything in our power, our best players will have to come to the fore and I’m sure they will. I’m really excited and can’t wait for the players to take to the field and hear the noise.

Our supporters have been really supporting the team on the pitch and we need that to continue to drive on and have a really good end to the season.”

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