CIARON COLL claims he’ll gladly take all the verbal abuse the Finn Harps’ fans throw his way should Derry City clinch victory in the North West derby in Ballybofey tonight.
The former Finn Harps captain left the Donegal club in the wake of his testimonial year last season and returns to Finn Park for the first time wearing the shirt of Harps’ fiercest rivals, Derry City.
It will no doubt be a tough pill to swallow for Harps’ supporters and, despite his unquestionable loyalty and dedicated service during a decade at the club, Coll certainly doesn’t expect a warm reception.
“I can’t wait,” he smiled. “Fans will be fans and they will no doubt give me a wee bit of abuse.”
Former Derry City skipper, Barry Molloy was on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse from Candy Stripes’ fans when joined the list of players who have crossed the North West divide in 2016. And Coll expects similar treatment from the fans who used to sing his name.
“To be honest, when you’re on the pitch you don’t hear half of it as you’re concentrating on your game. I’m sure there will be bits coming through but I don’t mind, as long as we get three points on Friday night I’ll be happy.”
Having been in the Harps dressing room under the management of Ollie Horgan and his assistant Paul Hegarty, Coll knows exactly the kind of rousing team-talk the passionate duo will deliver pre-match.
However, the experienced former Hearts defender reckons the two clubs have two very different mentalities when it comes to derby day.
“The North West derby, it’s a cup final for Harps,” he said. “If they beat us they’re celebrating, If we beat them we move onto the next game. You win some and you lose some but hopefully on Friday night, for myself and the club, we keep the run going and beat Harps.
“It’s a cup final to Harps. That’s the way they will go into it. They will make it as nasty as they can.”
Harps are rooted to the bottom of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division table following a winless league run which included seven defeats and two draws. And while form goes out the window when it comes to derby matches, Coll reckons Derry City’s full-time ethos will give them the upper hand going into what he expects to be a real battle.
"There’s times up there when the pitch is tore apart,” he explained. “They train on it Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“It doesn’t matter to us because we can change our tactics up many ways. We’re a full-time club going up to a part-time club. We’re in every day. We’ll get our recovery and make sure everyone is mentally right and get to Finn Park and take the three points.”
Coll, who has been a mainstay since making his City debut in the scoreless draw at Turners Cross, believes Derry will need all 11 players to be on top of their game if they are to come away from Finn Park with three points.
“If we have five or six men at the top of their game it’s going to be no good to us,” he warned. “We’re going to need 11 men at the top of their game if we want to get anything out of Friday night.
“They’re going to be dogged. I was there for 10 years with them and know exactly what it’s going to be like so hopefully I can pass that on to the lads here in this dressing room. We need to go to Finn Park on Friday night and get three points to keep the run going.”
Harps go into tonight’s game following a morale-boosting Cup win over Sligo Rovers on Monday night, however, their last win over Derry at Finn Park was a 2-1 win on February 2016.
Derry won 2-1 on their last visit to the venue in the second round of the EA Sports Cup last April and clinched a 2-0 away victory in the league in July 2017.