Derry City keen to set home record straight says Sadou Diallo as St. Pat's and Shamrock Rovers visit Brandywell

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SADOU Diallo reckons the intensity of Derry City's training sessions have been cranked up a notch following the arrival of Paddy McLaughlin and the return to fitness of key players.

Ruaidhri Higgins is edging nearer to having a ‘full deck’ with Adam O'Reilly, Michael Duffy and Colm Whelan all making comebacks in recent weeks. The City boss has enjoyed the luxury of making changes to revitalise his team after a three match winless run and it appears to have had the desired effect after last week's 3-1 victory over Cork City at Turner's Cross.

Diallo fell victim to one of those changes after the dismal defeat to Drogheda at Brandywell as he was named on the bench for the visit of Bohemians four days later. However, he returned to the starting line-up for the draw against Dundalk at Oriel Park and produced arguably his best display of the season in the victory over Cork last Friday. Will Patching and Jordan McEneff have also found themselves in and out of the starting XI in recent weeks as Higgins makes full use of his increased options.

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"That's why he's the manager," said Diallo. "He gets paid to make those decisions. There's competition in every position really. The starting 11 could look different every week, that's the strength and depth we have. You have to be on it when you get your chance, play well and keep the shirt."

Sadou Diallo has welcomed the increased competition for places at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. (Photo: Kevin Moore)Sadou Diallo has welcomed the increased competition for places at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. (Photo: Kevin Moore)
Sadou Diallo has welcomed the increased competition for places at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. (Photo: Kevin Moore)

With places up for grabs, particularly in central midfield, Diallo has noticed and welcomed a serious increase in the competitiveness of training sessions as Derry head into a Brandywell double header against Pat's and Shamrock Rovers.

"Definitely," he answered when asked if things have become more competitive within the squad. "Even today it was intense. There were tackles flying in. That's what you need in a squad environment if you're looking to achieve something big. You need competition for places and not just people who know they're going to play week in, week out. It's good for the team and the manager as well. It will be hard for him to pick the 11 but that's what you need."

The introduction of Higgins' new assistant, ex-Cliftonville boss McLaughlin, has also added a further injection of energy into the dressing room. Indeed Diallo revealed McLaughlin gave a rousing teamtalk ahead of the Cork game at Turner's Cross and it had a positive impact.

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"He's been good," added the midfielder. "Obviously the first day he was just telling us about himself and we were getting to know him. For the game the other day he gave a teamtalk which got us riled up and ready for the game so it's been good.

"You could see even in training before the game his energy, and he's vocal. He likes things done a certain way. We can all see that so it's been good."

Diallo, a devout Muslim, celebrated Eid to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday while in Cork with his teammates. He started the day with a visit to the local mosque for prayers and his Derry teammates presented him with a gift in honour of his month-long sacrifice. The three points and a quick return home to England to visit his family was the perfect way to mark the occasion.

"It was Eid so I had to put on a show I guess," he smiled. "On the day of the game, I was able to go to a local mosque and just rested up after that for the game. Luckily we got the win and I went home on Saturday. The lads got me some stuff as well for Eid as a gesture to say well done and stuff."

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Did he find it difficult to play those games when he was fasting from dawn to sunset?

"It wasn't tough because I'm used to it. You do have your tough days but overall I didn't really struggle with it. I managed to play some games fine and was getting everything I needed, the support from the club, the physiotherapist and sports scientist and all that. The support from the club and people around Derry was very good. I really appreciated that."

Diallo is looking forward to playing in front of the home support once more on Friday and he's hoping the team can 'put things right' given their recent form on Foyleside.

"That's the elephant in the room, those two home games. The results weren't good enough, we know that. We have to put things right starting with this game on Friday. We know what we have to do. We need to put in a performance for ourselves and for the fans.

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"And what better way to do that than against two of the good teams in the league. That would be a marker laid down but we have to take it one game at a time. Focus on Pats first and then Rovers on Monday."The former Man City youth player is viewed as a defensive midfielder but he's eager to show the more creative side of his game.

"It was good (his performance against Cork) but there's still more to come. That's the way I am. I just don't play well and say, 'Right that's it'.

"Trust me I do," he laughed when asked if he wanted to get in on the goalscoring act. "I just need to get into those positions because I have a good shot on me. I need to do that more in games. I'm sure I will open my account soon."

Victory on Friday would move Derry five clear of Pats and it's an incentive not lost on the players.

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"We need the fans to get behind us. Especially being at home and get the place bouncing and rocking. We will definitely be ready. We need to put things right, especially for those home games. We'll be ready going into Friday," he promised.