DERRY City return to Oriel Park in Dundalk tomorrow afternoon, the venue at which the “Candy Stripes” last lost a league game back in May. (Kick-off: 2.00 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Since then, Stephen Kenny’s side have not lost a league match in 17 and a victory on the Co. Louth club’s artifical pitch would set up a particularly interesting clash in the Tallagh Stadium against Shamrock Rovers next Thursday.
The Dubliner, however, refuses to look beyond tomorrow’s encounter and with inclement weather conditions forecast, the Brandywell boss was the first to point out that commitment and workrate could prove the key against the “Lilywhites” who have not won a match in their last eight fixtures.
With St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers both dropping points from fixtures against UCD and Bohemians respectively over the past week, twists and turns are predicted to remain the order of the day.
That said, Sligo Rovers have since gained the initiative with back-to-back league victories taking them seven points clear of Derry, who now hold two matches in hand.
‘Candy Stripes’ facing
“I think it’s fair to suggest that we faced the toughest run-in after what’s been a very competitive season with Sligo, Shamrock Rovers, St. Pat’s and Dundalk all expected to launch Championship challenges this season,” he suggested.
“And while we wouldn’t have been considered to challenge that group at the start of the campaign, I think the players have done exceptionally well to still be in there challenging,” added Kenny.
“However, despite away fixtures against Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and St. Pat’s still to come, plus home games against Galway and Bohemians, we haven’t given up on anything just yet.
“But we cannot afford to look beyond Dundalk on Saturday, that’s where our focus will be. Only after that game can we analyse things but we realise that a win is a must.
“I think our players can hold their heads high this season. They’ve been fantastic having progress through the First Division at the first attempt, winning the title and now adding the League Cup to that trophy.
“We have five games remaining and we believe European qualification is achievable, anything after that will be a bonus,” continued the Dubliner.
“To have amassed 60 points to date - 67 points won the league title last year - is great credit to the players but we must keep it going. We need another couple of victories to secure our place in Europe next season and we must attempt to do that. That’s the way we view it, we can only influence what’s under our control but we must be prepared and really motivated when travelling to Dundalk this weekend as we face a difficult match.”
Trained on Leafair Park
Derry trained yesterday afternoon on the Leafair Park 3G surface but Eddie McCallion, Ryan McBride and Owen Morrison all sat out that session and all three will miss the trip to Oriel Park.
McCallion (calf) limped off against Bray last weekend followed by McBride (groin) while Morrison suffered a setback in the 3-1 defeat at Ferney Park against Irish League Championship side, Ballinamallard, on Tuesday night.
“Owen’s had a reaction to his calf injury and had to come off after 40 minutes, so we’ll have to wait and see how he gets on but he will not be available for the Dundalk game,” confirmed Kenny.
Continued on Page 86
On a positive note, both Barry Molloy and Shane McEleney return to the fold having served one match suspensions against Bray and both will be expected to start tomorrow afternoon’s game.
With Dundalk having taken a hammering in the Sligo Showgrounds, losing 5-0 on Tuesday night, team boss, Ian Foster, will be hoping for a response but he must plan without centre-half, Dean Bennett and midfielder, Greg Bolger, who were both sent off in that game.
“Dundalk have good players as they’ve already shown this season and while they have not recorded good results in recent weeks, they remain a dangerous opponent, particularly at Oriel Park.
“So we must prepare well and travel down there confident of winning the game as we strive to finsh the season in a strong frame of mind.
“We’re certainly capable of doing that. We’re seeking an 18 match unbeaten league run and while we’ve recorded disappointing results at home against Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers, we’re still in there battling and we’re prepared to continue to do that over our final five games,” he concluded.
Tomorrow afternoon’s match will be screened “live” on the Setanta Sports satellite channel while next Thursday night’s game against Shamrock Rovers in Dublin will also be televised ‘live’ by RTE 2 from 7.00 p.m.