CIARAN COLL made his League of Ireland debut a decade ago but, remarkably, the experienced left-back finds himself in the same position as many of the new generation of Derry City stars as he prepares for his first senior Cup Final.
The 28 year-old left-back enjoyed a distinguished career with Finn Harps where he won two promotions to the Premier Division before making the switch to the Co. Donegal men’s fiercest rivals in the close season.
And that move has already proved fruitful with the Candy Stripes still very much in the fight for Europe and with a shot at winning the first trophy of the 2019 campaign when they entertain Dundalk in the EA Sports Cup Final at Brandywell on Saturday, September 14th next.
The St Johnston native has settled in well to his new surroundings at Brandywell which is just over eight miles from his family home and he’s proven to be one of Derry’s most consistent performers this season.
With the chance to clinch his first cup winners’ medal of his career, Coll has promised to raise his game even further to ensure Declan Devine’s men have every chance of stopping Dundalk in their tracks.
“It’s absolutely a massive occasion for me,” said Coll. “I was in promotion finals but being in the EA Sports Cup Final with Derry City and with it being on our home patch, it’s unbelievable to have that feeling we have a final to play in.
“I’ve been saying to everyone, over and over again, that it’s one of my biggest aims this season to get a bit of silverware for the club and especially for myself.
“It would be great for myself but even for the bunch of lads we have around the club and with Declan coming back, everything has been incredible and it would great for the city and for everyone involved in the club.”
Given the 2019 campaign was accepted by many to be a transitional year, reaching a cup final and challenging for European qualification has exceeded expectations.
Coll reckons retaining the EA Sports Cup would be more than just silverware but a platform to build on for next season as they attempt to forge a winning mentality at the club.
“If we keep everyone here and bring people in then we will hopefully push on then for next season and build on the success of this year.
“I just want to keep myself going, keep working hard and see how far it takes me. Luckily at the minute I haven’t been going too bad. Maybe I can go up a level now for the final and bring that trophy back.”
The League Cup holds a special place in Derry City hearts as it was the trophy which kick-started the famous treble winning campaign in 1988/89.
It’s the 30th anniversary of that unprecedented success and interestingly it all began with a 4-0 hammering of Dundalk at Oriel Park on Friday, October 13th 1988. And this time it will be Dundalk who are attempting to reach the Holy Grail and complete the 'treble' which has so far eluded them.
Derry has won the competition a record 11 times in total but next Saturday’s game is arguably their toughest test League Cup Final yet!
“We were unlucky in the game at the Brandywell in the FAI Cup with it going to extra-time but it’s going to be a tough match. They’ve been league champions for a couple of years now and will retain it comfortably again by the looks of it but it’s a chance to get a bit of silverware back into the Brandywell.
“We have a few players from last year that won the trophy and they can give us that bit of experience to those, like myself, who have never been in the final.
“With the home crowd behind us, we just want to keep it there. I would love to get a medal and win a trophy with my club where I’m enjoying it big time.”
Coll will need to be on top of his game to deal with the frightening pace of Daniel Kelly and the threat Sean Gannon on the overlap.
“That’s all done to preparation and what the staff do with us on the training ground. You just have to take that on, mentally prepare yourself and be aware of what you’re coming up against.
“For example in the cup final you have John Mountney, Daniel Kelly and probably one of the best right backs in the league, Sean Gannon. And then you have Pat Hoban coming at your on the left and Micky (Duffy) on the right.
“It’s going to be very tough,” he predicted. “It has caused us bother before and we’ve caused them bother there too with Junior on the left wing.”
Tickets have been selling fast and it’s expected to be a sell-out at Brandywell next Saturday night and Coll hopes the crowd can reproduce the atmosphere from the FAI Cup clash with the Lilywhites last month to get them over the line.
“Even the last game in the cup against Dundalk the fans were outstanding. They actually stayed until after the 120 minutes and applauded us off the pitch.
“We just hope the way they finished off that it continues next weekend and that even before we go out for the warm-up that they can create that kind of atmosphere and help us along.”