Derry City boss Ruaidhrí Higgins feels Mark Connolly won't be fazed by Dundalk return

Derry City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins says centre-back Mark Connolly will not be fazed by his instant return to Dundalk tomorrow night (KO 7.45pm).

The big defender played the first half of the season at Oriel Park on-loan from Dundee United, but returned to the Scottish club before joining the Candy Stripes on a permanent deal last week.

“It will be an interesting game for Mark,” insisted Higgins. “But he’s a model professional and I’m sure he’s dealt with more than this in his life so he’ll be ready for it.

“He did really well for Dundalk doing his period there on-loan, but I think it’s just supporters who will probably get involved in all that. The two managers and two sets of coaching staff will be fully focused.”

Derry City's Mark Connolly celebrates scoring against Oliver Bond Celtic last weekend. Picture by Kevin Moore/MCI

City have a big few weeks coming up both in the league and FAI Cup, a fixture schedule which excites the Limavady man.

“Friday is a big game and it’s to be enjoyed. This is what we’re all involved in football for, to play in key games,” he added.

“I think now we have a good balance of experience and players who are emerging and hopefully we can see that nice blend working together over the next few months.

“The next month is an important one for us but nothing will be decided on Friday night. However, if we could manage to win, it would be a huge win.

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“We have a bit of momentum domestically. We’ve won three and drew two of our last five league games, so we’re carrying a bit of form into the game, which is good. Training this week has been good and the players are looking forward to it, as are all the staff.”

With Higgins and his opposite number, Stephen O’Donnell, big friends off the field, the Derry boss admits their regular chats about all things football have had to take a back seat recently but he stressed there’s been no bad blood since Connolly made the switch north.

“We’re still really good friends and we speak quite often. We don’t really speak about football anymore, we’ll probably leave that until the end of the season,” he explained.

“But look, Stephen and his family were up here during the mid-season break and we spent a bit of time together. We probably don’t have as much craic about football as we would have done, that sort of stuff is difficult when you’re both managing, but there’s certainly no hard feelings.”

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